How do you choose the right running shoes?
April 02, 2014 by Jamie Page
“A shoe should complement a strong foot.”
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the world’s largest sports medicine and exercise science organization has just published information on “Selecting Running Shoes”.
What’s interesting about this publication is its similarities in the way we think, design and recommend running shoes and footwear as a whole.
For any runner, from a sub-3 marathon runner to a once a week fun runner, selecting the right footwear is important. Running trainers are the tools you need to get you to the end of your race, over the finish line or another lap around the park.
Having said that, there are a couple of things that are a bit more important than the shoes: your running biomechanics and your anatomy. It’s all about your technique and your feet, legs, and whole body.
Let your foot do its thing
According to ACSM: “A running shoe […] should not do the work of the foot by providing excessive cushioning and lots of extra support in the arch.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves: “A shoe should complement a strong foot.”
Running trainers are important but only in so much as they should let your feet behave freely, protect you from the environment and provide the right amount of grip for the terrain or activity. If they don’t do any of these things then having good technique or letting your feet and legs perform correctly will be difficult.
So, it’s all about picking the right tools for the job and letting your feet do their thing. We call it Pure Barefoot Technology.
What to look for in running shoes?
In their recent publication, the ACSM stated the following characteristics for a good running shoe:
Minimal heel-to-toe drop: shoes with no drop or a small drop 6mm or less are the best choice for allowing the foot to normally support loading during each gait cycle.
VIVOBAREFOOT have always made footwear that have zero heel to toe drop to ensure your foot can provide natural shock absorption. The foot will be able to be flat on the ground enabling good posture as the angles of the ankle, knee, hips and/or back will not have to compensate.
Neutral: This means the shoe does not contain motion control or stability components. These extra components interfere with normal foot motion during weight bearing.
This is a no-brainer, right? You wouldn’t support a bridge from underneath nor can you expect a foot to gain strength and fulfil its evolutionary role by interfering with it in this manner.
Light in weight: (10 ounces or less for a men’s size 9; 8 ounces or less for women’s size 8)
Be sure the shoe has a wide toe box. You should be able to wiggle your toes easily. Narrow toe boxes do not permit the normal splay, or spread of the foot bones during running.
We make our shoes wide enough for your feet to splay and recoil and provide all the natural motion control you need to keep balanced as well as propel yourself forwards efficiently.
What about sensory feedback?
There wasn’t a mention of sensory feedback in the article. We regard the nervous system and in particular the relevancy of the receptors in the feet and legs and the brain – and the communication system between these two.
It was only 3 years ago that the ACSM recommended footwear based on arch type, something that we subsequently understand is misleading. The true extent of the flexibility and characteristics of the foot is becoming clearer. And since then the ACSM, which is “dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine”, has scrapped this approach changed its thinking on the prescription on running shoes.
What to avoid
- High, thick cushioning: Soft cushioning may actually encourage runners to adopt worse biomechanics and land with greater impact than shoes with less cushioning.
- Shoes that have a high heel cushion and low forefoot cushion (a “high profile shoe”, or a high heel to toe drop)
- Extra arch support inserts or store based orthotics. These items are often not necessary. Orthotics should be considered temporary fixes (<6-8 weeks) until foot strength is increased. A therapist can help you with exercises that can strengthen the foot so that you do not need arch supports on a daily basis.
So there you have it: times are changing, people are thinking about their feet, and the truth is beginning to surface.
Is this evidence that the paradigm shift in modern human movement is surfacing again? We think so and this latest release from the ACSM seems to suggest an improved understanding in foot function, biomechanics and the role of healthy and functional footwear.
Looking for a shoe that makes sense
Check out our range of road running shoes that meet the recent ACSM recommendations and don't forget to check out our training drills for relearning the skilful movement.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 50,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.