Wednesday, September 2

Don't go barefoot!

Runners are slowly catching on to the fact that although the running shoe industry churns out increasingly "protective" shoes, we're still geting injured in our droves.

The New York Times has picked up on the trend among runners to switch to minimalstic shoes. The NYT showed that it was particularly taken with the Vibram Five Fingers (should be toes), which are more socks than shoes.

They are a giant step beyond the Nike Frees, which were advertised as being able to give you the barefoot experience, but are still very much cushioned shoes, albeit giving the foot a fantastic degree of freedom compated to standard running shoes.

But the NYT piece was a oittle confusing. A running friend who alerted me to the story said: "Interesting though about there being no evidence that one type of shoe or another helps/prevents injuries. Sort of negates all that panic about running in old shoes. Apparently, it doesn't really matter what you run in."

Which is not at all what the research says. I couldn't help going into a mini-rant when I emailed back:

"That's not how I read the research (what there is of it). What little there is supports the idea that motion control/"protective"/whatever you want to call, them modern running shoes do not reduce the injury rate in runners and may even CAUSE injuries (that was the gist of Richards' earlier research which this article didn't dare quote).

"So it is important to wear the most minimal shoe you can get away with given your weight, flexibility/lack of, strength/lack of and biomechanics. The average overweight, barely-in-shape heel striker might be worse off in minimalistic shoes, but the problem is while they continue to use "protective" shoes those shoes will actively stop them developing the proper gait and form they need to run efficiently and injury-free (Catch 22). Ideally, runners need to be doing strength and conditioning exercises to help them transition to an efficient gait and to gradually experiment with more neutral shoes... but no one bothers to do that.

"End of that rant. Part two is that none of this evidence and experience supports the idea that running in worn-out old shoes is good for you!! Trust you to look for an excuse not to buy new running shoes!!!!

"The problem with old shoes is that the wear pattern on the sole exaggerates whatever quirks you have biomechanically and will increase the risk of injury - in an extreme case it can be like permanently running on a camber! But it's true that what doesn't really matter is the fact that the cushioning foam wears out and doesn't "protect" you any more."

She got the message :)

"Yes, I will admit that my no new shoes might be a stretch, but I liked my interpretation. I was going to buy new shoes today, but when I read the article last night, I promptly put it off until later this week. And now I am thinking of going back to getting a new pair like my shoes from a year ago, which were sort of neutral, not those structure things, which I didn't really like. "

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