As many of us are gearing up for a new year of running goals and training groups the shoe conversations are also increasing. How do I know what shoe to wear? Do these shoes prevent injury or are they causing my problem? What do you think about minimalist shoes and should I be wearing them?
I hear these concerns and questions every day in our clinic and while they are important, the beginning of the discussion on running shoes needs to back up for a moment. It is my belief that what shoe choices you make are of secondary importance to how your biomechanics are, how strong you are, what surfaces you train on and the volume that you do. Don’t get me wrong, finding a good shoe that fits well, functions properly, aides in injury prevention, and sometimes even, looks good, is important. But, if you have the perfect shoe selected, and still have weak, underactive feet or really tight hips, or run on hilly concrete surfaces, injury likely awaits you.
Running is a very difficult activity, and we need to ensure that all runners have strong stabilizing muscles, proper function of the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and flexibility in their hip flexors and quadriceps. Once you have this and are running at least half your volume on soft surfaces and working on proper biomechanics the shoe issue can be addressed.
For the majority of runners out there, wearing a relatively simple, neutral, cushioned trainer will be appropriate. That’s why standard models like the ASICS Cumulus, Nike Pegasus and Adidas Boston are popular sellers year in and year out. A cushioned shoe allows for normal foot movement, but does provide some support. Minimalist shoes especially ones that are very light (less than 7, 9 oz for women and men respectively) are not recommended unless you are a fast runner, run exclusively on soft surface, and/or are very efficient. We see many runners jumping into minimalist shoes without knowing how to strengthen their bodies, or how really to use these shoes. Minimalist shoes can be a tool to improve running mechanics and foot strength, but rarely are used correctly in our experience and often cause as many problems as they alleviate.
To make good shoe choices I recommend working with someone who specializes in running biomechanics, a sports therapist, and your local running specialty store. Stay away from extremes and fad movements if you can spot them, no matter how well intentioned. Get multiple opinions if you need to and come to Fix Body Group for a biomechanical assessment if you can!
All the best in running for 2014!