I’ve had multiple conversations over the past few weeks regarding runners or those who generally enjoy doing physical activity and shoes. More specifically, the effects that shoes have on your body. I want to discuss a few things that I believe can make a huge difference in how you perform and also possibly get rid of some of that nagging knee or foot pain.
The running shoe as we know it didn’t really come about until right around the late 60s early 70s, which, ironically (or not), is also the same time Nike was founded (1964). You see before that time, running shoes were simple, not a lot of support, not a lot of cushion and very little sole to speak of. Around that same time, America was in the midst of the Vietnam War. You see, I bring this up because history has shown that during times of heartache and stress humans like to run. For instance, after 9/11 the percentage of people running on a regular basis increased drastically. So the running trend was kicking and people started to realize that there was a lot of money to be made in this niche. So the modern running shoe was created. And as it has evolved, so has the number and severity of running related injuries. Things like shin splints, plantar fasciitis and sore knees were virtually unknown until this point. So what happened? What does the modern running shoe have to do with shin splints? I’ll tell you.
The human foot actually plays a huge in how the rest of your body encounters and reacts to the outside world, believe it or not. And with 20 muscles in the foot alone and literally thousands of nerve endings, when your foot can’t sense the ground because it is masked by a cushiony shoe, the body is then allowed to move in ways the human body was naturally not meant to move. For instance, I’m sure most people have heard of heel striking when you run, right? Well, heel striking is a very, very unnatural action. With heel striking, the pressure put on your joints and the rest of your body is increased dramatically. With is because, instead of landing on your forefoot, like you should, and allowing your achilles to act as a spring, you land on your heel, which is not as forgiving. So all of these $200 shoes and custom orthotics are simply adding to the problem instead of helping make your foot stronger. The more protection and cushion your foot has, the less it is able to do its job and the more likely you are to have an overuse injury.
So now what? Well, that’s simple……don’t run with shoes. OK, not really. Clearly that is some what of an overstatement. They have the shoes that have became popular over the past several years called minimalist shoes. These shoes are basically some sort of fabric attached to what resembles the tread of a tire. Again, I can assume that most have heard of Vibrams, the goofy five finger shoes. Well, these are minimalist shoes. Luckily enough,
don’t have to buy these things in order to have a pair of minimalist shoes. A good brand that I recommend is Merrell. With Merrell you get a shoe that looks like a shoe as well as all the benefits of the five finger Vibram. The benefits of wearing these shoes as opposed to regular running shoes is that they allow you to sense the ground. With minimal support for your feet, your body will not allow you to compensate and adjust your form and will force you to run on your forefoot, where you should. I wouldn’t recommend sprinting off for five miles if your just starting. Your feet need to adjust so break them in. Start off with walking, literally. Move to short distance running and eventually you can get in some miles…..if that’s what you’re in to.