This week an article was published in the Washington Post about how several of the major shoe companies are moving back to more support, more cushioning and more structure in their shoes. The article also states that the “barefoot” movement is over and that what the public want is a softer and more cushioned ride.
Brands such as Hoka One have been promoting this for some time, and the fact of the matter is that there are quite a few very accomplished runners out there, running some spectacular times with these shoes.
In the article, the President of Hoka One is cited as saying that “Runners get just as injured as they ever did and that we really haven’t improved that in the last 30 years”.
I’d like to point out that it was just over 30 years ago that the revolution in shoe design began. Prior to that, shoes were very basic, had little to no support or cushioning, people were running distances that would now be considered over-training and injury rates were MUCH lower.
We all saw recently that Vibram were taken to court and fined 3.75 million dollars in a class action law suit because they “falsely” claimed their shoes make feet stronger. While this situation is unfortunate for Vibram, it shows all the shoe companies that they need to be careful about what they are spruiking. The fact of the matter is that no shoe by itself will make a foot stronger, however I do believe that a shoe CAN make a foot weaker. In the same way that telling an unfit and overweight person to avoid exercise so they don’t get too tired, will help them improve their situation…
When I shared the Washington Post article on the Brewsters Running facebook page, we got a wide and interesting range of responses. The ones I was most interested in were those people who said something like “but I wear supportive and thick soled shoes, and I don’t get injured”. My response to this is – Fantastic! If you don’t have any problems, then you probably don’t need to change anything. More important than the shoes we wear, is our ability to move efficiently and effectively. Some people have developed a running gait that is exactly that, efficient, and that can happen regardless of the shoes they wear. The only problem is that unless you’ve got the technique down, the shoe can and most often will screw things up and lead to strain, injury, blisters, lost training time and ultimately misery.
Over the last 10 or so years, I’ve made it my mission to be the most educated and informed as I possibly can be when it comes to all things running. I’ve run in all sorts of shoes, I’ve run on all sorts of terrain, over all sorts of distances and I’ve even engineered a Master’s Degree so that I got to study barefoot running and its effect on the body. In addition to this, I studied what makes up good running technique and began coaching and holding technique workshops so that people could prevent the injuries BEFORE they happen. The popularity of these workshops is testament to the fact that people are obviously realising that there may be a better way for them to do things.
With all this in mind, I’ve developed some fairly strong ideas on running shoes, what is ideal and what is less than ideal.
Anyone that reads my stuff will know that I’m a fan of minimalist shoes, simply because I’ve seen more than enough evidence in the research, in my clients and from my own experience to know that it makes a whole lot of sense. I’ve also seen some absolutely beautiful running being done in shoes that are anything but minimal, but the beauty in that running comes from the runner, not the shoe. What I advocate is movement in its most natural form. Unaffected by technology that we are “told” we need. Movement that abides by the laws of nature and allows our body to perform as it was designed. Yes, the right shoes can give us the best opportunity to create that kind of movement, and the wrong ones can make it so much harder.
At the end of the day, I come back to the same story that I’ve told time and again… The human body was designed to run, this now is indisputable fact. Our feet have very specific biomechanical and neurological structures and functions that simply cannot perform as they are required to when we package them with too much “stuff”.
Let your feet do the talking, and if they say they are happy, then you must be doing something right.