Purchasing a higher quality pair of running shoes can deliver a more comfortable running experience and reduce the risk of injuries. However, runners still need to decide the right type of running shoe for their style of running and their physical needs as a runner.
So do good running shoes make a difference, or is it just a case of shoe companies hyping up the need for running shoes so that you buy their products?
Like many things in life, it’s not as black and white as you might think.
I can remember as a 13-year-old boy running my first cross country at school in a pair of football boots.
Did not think anything of it, no injuries.
However, I also remember some years later getting my first pair of proper running shoes and loving the feel of the shoes.
So let’s look at …..
Are Good Running Shoes Important?
The Case for Comfortable Running Shoes.
A high-intensity force extends to your feet when you run, mainly on your heel and forefoot. The best way to limit the amount of pressure you get is to invest in shoes that have great cushioning or, as discussed later, the choice to change
The more cushioning you can get on your running shoe, the better for many runners or at least that is the perceived wisdom held by many.
When running, you will be pushing your body to move at high speeds, and the chances of you being injured can be high. That is why many runners look for the best running shoes, as they will help give you stability.
The type of stability will depend on your
If you are neutral, you will have very little need for stability elements in your shoes.
If you pronate, it means when you run, your weight goes towards the inside of your foot, whereas supination means your weight moves more to the outside of your foot.
Running shoes come in many weights; however, they are significantly lighter than your average shoe, and this is a great advantage when running especially when trying to go further and faster; even a shoe that is just a couple of ounces lighter can make a huge improvement on your running performance.
But Do Good Running Shoes Make A Diffrence To Preventing Injury?
This is the bizarre thing for all the above technology, 30-75% of all runners get injured.
Now, this cannot be all laid at the modern running shoe door.
Most of us live more sedentary lives often means that we put more strain on our bodies when we run.
The common view is without modern, comfortable running shoes; more runners would endure injuries.
So do running shoes prevent injury, or are they perhaps causing them?
However, the flip side argument is that modern running shoes with their arch support don’t let you run completely naturally, which means we dumb down our foot natural sensors and change the way our feet hit the ground.
Interestingly, remember earlier the stat about, 30-75% of runners get injured well…
75% of runners using modern road running shoe heel strike.
Is that a coincidence or a contributory factor to the amount of injury that runners suffer?
The fact is humans were not designed to heel strike, and the force that it creates literally sends a shock wave through our bodies?
When runners run in barefoot shoes, the discomfort of heel striking often corrects runners form. However, this does have some challenges, which we will come to in a moment.
Should I Try Barefoot Running Shoes?
I have a powerful desire to do many runs as a barefoot or minimalist runner. However, for me as an older runner, I have had to go a middle line of using some of the benefits of using minimalist shoes and at the same time avoiding some of what I feel are some of the shortcomings of running in minimalist running shoes.
Often in the running, things go in cycles; 10 years ago, minimalist shoes and running were all the rage, especially after the Born To Run Book by Christopher McDougall was published.
Then the inevitable backlash came stories of injury and other problems.
As I write this, the pendulum has now swung to full maximal shoes and cushioning.
The reality is the truth is somewhere in the middle.
So let’s have a look at the pros and cons of barefoot running.
Benefits Of Barefoot Running Shoes.
I wrote a short article a while back on my thoughts of where the Barefoot running benefits.
I have also written about what I feel about zero drop running shoes.
However, for this article, it’s worth pointing out that runners are getting more injured for all the technological advances of shoes since the 70s.
So what does minimalist/barefoot running bring to the table?
- It helps develop a forefoot strike versus heel striking.
- Shorter stride length and higher running cadence.
- Improved use of the foot and really utilising the foot’s ability to sense the environment around it and send information to the brain and body (proprioception )
The Foot Slap Test.
I was recently running a half marathon; I was really intrigued by how heavily many runners were slapping their feet onto the ground.
It did not seem to do with the runner’s size but more to do with the type of shoe.
Let’s be brutally honest if a runner had nothing on their feet, there would be no chance that they could endure continually slapping their foot hard onto concrete?
It’s well worth taking out your earbuds when you run and listening to how your feet make contact with the ground.
A great benefit of minimalist footwear personally, even if worn daily but not for running, is that it improves how you move and your feet contact the ground.
It is almost impossible to slap your foot down hard when running barefoot or with minimalist running shoes.
Why does this matter?
Because it all comes down to the better and more fluid and efficient your running, you will likely be a faster, less injury-prone runner.
Potential Downsides Of Barefoot Running Shoes.
In one word…
Nearly all of us have run and live-in shoes that surround our feet and, in effect, protect and also limit our foot’s ability to be used as the high-level sensor that it is.
So if your average runner goes out barefoot and goes out as they would with their normal road running shoes or trail shoes, the likelihood is you will get injuries, especially in the calf area.
I should know that’s what I did 🙂
For many runners, the period it takes to adapt to barefoot or minimalist shoes is not worth it.
The midway I have taken is to wearing minimalist shoes in my day to day walking and then having a pair of running shoes with some cushioning for my actual runs.
So, What’s the Truth About Road Running Shoes?
Where Are You As A Runner?
So what’s the truth about running shoes. Well, it really depends on several factors.
First of all, where are you, as a runner?
Are you a runner? That is pretty fit. Or are you a runner with various injuries?
Because this will all impact the running shoe, you wish to wear. I think people underestimate how important running shoes are to people’s identity. So if you’re the sort of person that enjoys the thought of minimalist shoes, you’re going to be drawn towards that.
Whereas other people are more drawn towards the idea of shoes protecting them from the ground. It just depends really on how you identify yourself as a runner.
And that brings me to my next point. It really comes down to your thoughts on what a shoe should do.
Some runners will think of shoes as minimal as possible to give them some protection from the concrete or the type of terrain they’re running on. They want to feel as much of the road or the trail as they possibly can. They are committed to ensuring that their feet are in touch with what is happening when running as much as possible.
Some people will be looking at shoes, and they want them to become shock absorbers. They want them to reduce any impact as much as possible.
That is gonna have a big impact on the type of shoe that they want.
So the truth about running shoes really comes down to really knowing what the pluses and the minuses of different shoes are.
The problem is that whatever you want, you’re going to find pluses and minuses. The jury’s still out in that do maximal running shoes reduce injury or do increase injury.
All we can say is that, since the 1970s, shoes have been adding more and more protection to running shoes, be in stack height, different types of foam or support for pronators and supination; however, even as I write this article in 2021, between 30% and 70% of all runners still end up injured.
So would this be worse if people were running in less supportive shoes?
Probably not. So, some of the blame does have to be aimed at maximal shoes. However, when the trend for minimal shoes came in, many people got injured too.
But as I outlined earlier. The main reason for that was that there is an adaptations period for running in minimal footwear or being barefoot if you’ve been used to, like most of us in normal shoes.
So I think the truth for me is, as often as is, somewhere in the middle. I love the idea of minimal shoes. I wear minimal shoes in my day to day life to make sure that my feet get the most exercise that they can get because I know if my feet are working well. Then, a lot of it works up through my body, and I will become a more efficient and less injury-prone runner, however…
I am really willing to adapt to running in minimalist shoes. After so many years of being in normal shoes?
No, I tend to run with something with some cushioning in. Though I do really try to find shoes with a minimal drop, I don’t treat my shoes as a religion.
I try shoes out, and if they work, that’s a win.
That might sound a touch unhelpful, but you have to be aware; if you ask 100 runners whats the best-running shoe you will more than likely get 100 different replies; 🙂