In our previous article on running safety, Are Running Shoes Killing your Feet?, we revealed new research that challenges some long-held ideas about preventing running injuries. These new ideas are changing the way running shoes are made and altering the way running coaches help those who are training to run.
Born to Run - The Minimalist Shoe MovementAfter reading, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall, I started noticing that runners were talking about or looking for a more lightweight, minimalist running shoe. I wanted to find out more about this type of shoe.
|The minimalist shoe is like running|
barefoot and is the newest
revolution in running shoes.
Common running shoes that most of us are familiar with are more structured running shoes and they are made to control or stabilize the foot and ankle and substantially cushion impact forces. This style of shoe might be the right solution for some runners. But as research presented in our previous article, Are Running Shoes Killing Your Feet, revealed, many runners may be better off with a simpler shoe, or possibly even running barefoot. Why? Because not all runners run the same way.
One of the problems with the traditional running shoe is that it's design virtually forces a heel-strike-first style of running. The traditional running shoe has extra bulk and height built into the heel of shoe. The thought was that runners would reduce injuries if there was more cushioning between the heel and the road. The problem is that many studies seem to indicate that those who “heel-strike” – landing heel first, then rocking forward to the rest of the foot when running – have a greater likelihood or frequency of injury than those whose initial strike is the forefoot or mid-foot.
A 2012 study performed by Lieberman and colleagues, Foot Strike and injury rates in endurance runners, Medical Science Sports Exercise, revealed that competitive cross country runners who run heel first experienced a marked increase in injury rates, compared to those who have a forefoot strike. Other studies support this including Physiological and ergonomics factors in running shoe design, reported in Applied Ergonomics.
In the study Foot strike patterns of recreational and sub-elite runners in a long-distance road race reported in Journal of Sports Sciences 2011, stated that the majority of elite runners – those with the most experience and running faster – are forefoot strikers, rather than heel-first.
Choosing a shoe with a less built-up heel will allow you to adapt to a style of running that gives your heel a break, and allows you to run in a way that lets your foot land under your center of gravity, which most running coaches consider ideal.
Should you change the kind of running shoes you wear?Possibly, but this is a decision that should be based on how you run and what you want to get out of running. While most elite runners land initially more to the front or middle of their foot, rather than heel first, a few elite runners do land heel first. The fact is that foot shape, size, leg length, body weight, body form, body posture, and bone density differ from one runner to the next. So one shoe style or running form does not fit all runners.
So before you change shoes, consider this; as the expression goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Are you experiencing pain (such as shin splints, forefoot or heal pain, etc.) in your current running shoes? If not, then why switch? But if you are in pain or getting injured, then perhaps it's time to go to a reputable running shoe store or join a local running club for running tips or advice on a running shoe that might be better suited for you. Running clubs and running stores are both good sources for running training or running tips, as well as where to find the best local running trails and running routes.
Be open to trying something different. New forms and new shoe styles may feel foreign, and will take a period of adjustment. But in the end, if you are running pain free and injury free, you will enjoy it more and you will have better endurance and a better experience.
Whether you are a running beginner or into marathon running, these are a couple of my favorite sources for running information.
- In Search of the Perfect Running Shoe, by Dr. Phil Maffetone
- Competitor.com - A guide to minimalist running shoes and other advice for runners.
- Science of Running - A blog by Steve Magness, Head Cross Country coach at University of Houston.