3 Running Shoe Myths
Let’s talk about running shoes, which have created a lot of confusion amongst runners. Most runners have learned about running shoes through personal experiences. They’ll also combine advice from friends, shoe sales workers, the internet, and advertisements. Then they’ll eventually try to sort through an enormous amount of shoe options. This can be a tough process for some runners. And even after this entire process, many runners will still get injured after selecting their perfect shoe. Since there are so many misconceptions about running shoes, I decided I would break down the 3 main myths so you can learn how to find your perfect shoe. Let’s get started!
1. The more cushion the better for running shoes:
The human body does an amazing job absorbing the impact forces we create when running without any added assistance. Might be hard to believe for some. This doesn’t mean maximum cushioned shoes don’t have any benefits, but it may not be as important as you think. If cushioning was so good then why are runners still getting injured at the same rate they have in the past when shoes weren’t as cushioned? When running, the absorption of impact starts with pre-activated muscle contractions which anticipate the landing while the leg in still in the air. Upon contact, the plantar fat pad under the feet cushions the impact. Then muscles contract further, joints flex and rotate in a precisely timed pattern extending from the foot to the ankle to the knee, hip, and then spin. This process all occurs in less than a second with every foot strike. To have efficient impact absorption, it’s required to have balanced muscle contractions, proper range of motion of the joints, and flexibility of tendons and ligaments. High cushioned running shoes can have a negative effect on these. Also, running shoes will change how we absorb impact forces. They not only limit sensory feedback from our feet, but the more cushioned the shoe, the more they flex and compress. The thick platform elevates the foot above the ground and can compress unevenly. This uneven compression can cause instability and the runner will now have to absorb impact forces while their joints are not in a proper alignment. The consequence of this is that the compressed foam causes the joints to not be aligned and increased the workload in the tendons, muscles, and ligaments. Now, how much cushion is too much cushion? This is tough to answer because runners respond differently compared to other runners. What may be too much cushion for one runner may not be enough for another. You need to find what works for you. And again, I’m not saying high cushioned shoes don’t have any benefits. I’m just saying that they’re not meant for everyone.
2. Wear patterns must be elevated when getting new shoes:
Most runners will look at the wear pattern on the outer sole of their shoes and think it has specific meaning when in fact most runners have the same wear pattern. Only the most severe over pronators and supinators will show unusual west patterns. This has been a big misconception with most runners. Most runners will think that when there’s wear on the outside heel that it would mean that the runner is a supinator. However, the foot is almost never fully pronated when the heel is initially striking the ground. So someone cannot expect to I see wear on the heel as an indication of how a runner pronates. A knowledgeable runner will understand the biomechanics of the feet and legs and perform a gait analysis which includes watching the runner stand, walk, and run before assessing their foot strike. After this process, checking the wear pattern may lead to other clues but these clues should only confirm what the gait analysis has confirmed. There are way too many runners that think wear patterns are some magical clue to help us find the right shoe. That’s not the case. The less someone knows about biomechanics and running shoes, the more emphasis they put on the wear pattern. Don’t fall into this trap.
3. That pronation is a bad thing:
This is a topic that can really confuse runners. This is because most running store employees, and even other runners, insist that just because a runner over pronates means the person needs a stability shoe. Don’t assume pronation is a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing. It is the first and most important process in a chain of events that allow our body to absorb the impact forces of running. It should be stated that too much pronation can be a bad thing. This is when the feet pronate so much that the whole complex and timed chain of events that occur between the feet and body is thrown off. This can make a runner less efficient and quicker to fatigue. It can even cause injury, but these situations usually only happen in extreme pronators. Pronation is a process that occurs when the foot initially makes contact with the ground and continues until the heel starts to lift and transfer weight to the forefoot. When we describe over pronation we say the foot rolls inward. When we describe supination we say the foot rolls outward. Some describe over pronation as a collapsing arch but it’s more complicated than that. It also involves inward tilting of the heel, outward movement of the forefoot, upward bending of the ankle, and internal rotation of the lower leg. Now, let’s talk about stability shoes. Most people would assume that just because a runner over pronates means they need a stability shoe. This is not the case. Yes, it can be beneficial for some runners who over pronate an extreme amount but most of the time they’re not needed. Remember what I said above, pronating (over pronating) is our friend and absorbs impact forces. If a runner who over pronates the usual amount, like 70% of people do, and they decide to wear stability shoes, then they’re potentially setting themselves up for an injury. IT Band Syndrome and hip issues have been known in runners who wear stability shoes.
So, with all this information, it’s safe to say that you should do your part to make sure you’re getting the right shoe. There are so many factors that play a role. Give yourself the best chance to stay healthy and perform your best in training and on race day!