Do Not Blame Your Running Shoes

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Do Not Blame Your Running Shoes

Hi. It’s us, your run­ning shoes. We’ve got a few things to tell you. We’re tired of being blamed for all your run­ning problems.

Shin splints? “Shoes must be get­ting old.” Knee prob­lems? “I must have the wrong type of shoes.” Slow race time? “My shoes felt too heavy.”

Don’t get us wrong. We love run­ning with you. We would never quit on you. We want you and your feet to be happy. But before you give up on us and go bare­foot (who will you blame for your aches and pains then?), just hear us out.

Consider Breaking Up With Your Work Shoes

No, we’re not jeal­ous. We under­stand that there are other shoes in your life. We have no desire to go to bor­ing meet­ings or sit under a desk all day. But come on, do you think you’re really doing your feet a favor with these?

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If we’re lucky you might spend two or three hours with us, but you cram your feet into your work shoes for up to 12 hours per day, five days a week!

And if you really are wear­ing high heels for that long, you could be doing some seri­ous dam­age. In fact, recent stud­ies have shown that high heels can shorten calf length by up to 13 per­cent!

And men, you’re not doing your­selves any favors either. When you jam your feet into your expen­sive styl­ish nar­row dress shoes with pointy toes, you will over time deform your foot by cram­ming your toes together. And when your toes are all crammed together, they don’t con­tribute so well to your run­ning stride.

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Take Your Shoes Off When Your Are At Home

We spend a lot of time with your feet. We lis­ten to them much more than you do. You know what their biggest com­plaint is? You keep them in shoes too much.

You should take your shoes off every chance you get. It’s good for your shoes, and it’s even bet­ter for your feet. Walk­ing around the house with­out shoes devel­ops your foot and calf mus­cles while help­ing your feet breathe.

Here’s some­thing you should try. When you walk around the house, can you hear the china rat­tle? Do the peo­ple on the floor below you hear THUD THUD THUD with every step you take? You prob­a­bly don’t even notice it.

Pay atten­tion to how hard your feet hit the floor when you walk with­out shoes — and then try to walk silently. You don’t need to walk on tip­toes to walk silently. Just put your feet down more gen­tly and make sure your heel doesn’t strike first.

In fact, this is the way humans were meant to walk. Land­ing on the ball of your foot instead of your heel improves your bal­ance and your form. You can do this at home every time you take a step, and your feet, shins, and knees will thank you.

Running Shoes Can Not Save You From Bad Form

You’ve heard the con­ven­tional wis­dom. Do you over­pronate? Get a motion con­trol shoe. Do you under­pronate? Get a cush­ioned shoe. Do you have knee prob­lems? Get fit­ted for orthotics. In fact, it seems there’s a shoe or an insert for every pos­si­ble gait problem.

But is it really the shoes? Recent stud­ies using con­trol groups have actu­ally “…found almost no cor­re­la­tion at all between wear­ing the proper run­ning shoes and avoid­ing injury.” In fact, run­ners who used the “cor­rect” type of shoe in the stud­ies actu­ally had a higher inci­dence of injuries than run­ner who didn’t.

So how do you make sense of this data? Here’s our take on it. When you use your run­ning shoes to com­pen­sate for bad form, you actu­ally train your feet and legs to run worse. If you buy cush­ioned shoes because you’re a heel striker, the shoes make it OK to heel strike and over time your heel strikes harder and harder.

If you buy motion con­trol shoes because you pronate, the shoes do all the work for you so the mus­cles that would nor­mally keep your feet from pronat­ing get even weaker and your over prona­tion gets even worse.

So what can you do?

Do Not Fix Your Shoes, Fix Your Form

Yes, you can prob­a­bly fix your form by run­ning bare­foot — but we don’t think you need to. We think you can improve your form and reduce injuries and prob­lems by sim­ply fol­low­ing these two pieces of advice:

  • Go nat­ural — By this we mean get off the pave­ment. Run on grass. Run up hills. Run on trails. Run any­where that the sur­face isn’t flat. Uneven ter­rain will force you to run with a more respon­sive gait. In time, this will develop all those mus­cles that have atro­phied from years and years of motion con­trol and flat pave­ment. It will be hard at first, and you should start slow. But in time you’ll notice the dif­fer­ence. Besides, isn’t pave­ment get­ting bor­ing for you? We would sure like a change of scenery!
  • Shorten your stride — We think that you are heel strik­ing, and suf­fer­ing from shin splints, knee prob­lems, and other mal­adies because your stride is too long. When your feet land in front of you, you are overex­tend­ing your joints and mus­cles. Also, when your feet land in front of you, the only way they can land is on the heel. The heel is not made for gen­tly absorb­ing shock — it trans­fers the shock right up your legs and through your body.If you shorten your stride so that your feet land under­neath you, you’ll find that you will dra­mat­i­cally reduce the impact on your heels. You’ll move more quickly onto the balls of your feet, and you’ll have a bet­ter push off to start the next stride. To help your­self achieve this form, lean for­ward slightly as you run. Of course, shorter strides mean less dis­tance cov­ered, so you’ll need to increase your turnover. Over time it will start to feel more nat­ural, and the reduced impact will trans­late into less train­ing time lost to injury.

So can we be friends again? Take care of your feet when you’re not run­ning, and they’ll take care you when you are. Pay atten­tion to improv­ing your form by short­en­ing your stride, and you’ll reduce the impact of each step on your body. And finally, take it slow. Add dis­tance grad­u­ally when you train and lis­ten to your body.

Let’s go for a run!

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