Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Right Shoe For the Job: Part I (Running Shoes)

Now THAT's a flexible shoe!

Injury = weaknesses showing its ugly head.

If you're working hard on strengthening your body - think about what you may be leaving out.  The body is a big chain of muscles and tendons; movement of that body or parts of that body is a series of small reactions among those body parts.

Common sense, you say?  You might think so, yet we commonly see people wearing shoes akin to casts on their feet. You've seen them: those heavily cushioned and overly supportive shoes meant to make you feel as if you're "running on air" or to "correct" your "bad running form." In reality, these heavily cushioned casts serve only to prevent movement, immobilizing a joint or series of joints.  

On this blog, we often discuss shoe selection for running. The best kind of shoe to allow your foot to move the way it's supposed to and build strength in your foot are commonly referred to as "minimal shoes." These are shoes that offer protection from elements and extreme temperatures but do not impede natural running form. These shoes require you to improve your running form, which in turn strengthens your foot (and helps prevent injury).

So, what about those heavily cushioned "casts" we see so many people wearing typically for the wrong reasons.  These are rife with problems and they will only exacerbate existing form problems and injuries. They:
  • Overly absorb impact, making you unaware you've landed on the ground. This makes you push down harder seeking for firm ground. 
  • Attempt to offer a springiness (or compliance) that helps, but can easily be out of synch with the springiness of your natural stride.
  • Block the foot's nerves enough to keep the fact you've landed on a tree root secret so you can just roll an ankle.
  • Weight, a shoe shouldn't be a % of your body weight.  We may think we are using the best "space age materials" - typically shoes are way too heavy.  Especially heavy for the young; an 8oz shoe for an 8 year old is like a 3lb shoe for an adult.
  • Remove your proprioceptive feedback that is necessary for balance, stability and posture.
  • Raised heels to encourage rear foot strike, check out 'Do running shoes still need raised heels?'.
  • ((Did I miss anything))
For shoe sizing, it's more about flexible points not length!  Details here

So, we know the best shoes for running are shoes that allow the many muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your foot to do their job, unimpeded. Have you thought about how that might transfer to work shoes or gym shoes?  ((See part 2 and 3))