So, on to other things, I recently had a friend contact me after taking her children school shopping for shoes. She noticed how different running shoes are now compared to the last couple of years and asked about the new style. She noticed that they don’t seem to offer all the support from previous styles. I have posted about Barefoot Running, and you can review it here /index.html, but thought I would look at the basis behind the new seemingly “low tech” running shoes.
You know, one of my favorite things to do is research a topic for someone! (It’s much more fun than folding the two baskets of laundry at my feet.) You also know I will skip over all the “scientificy” stuff and just give you a nutshell of the mumbo jumbo.
So, here goes on the new running shoe issue:
In looking at traditional shoes we have used to pound the pavement, scientists found that we were actually pounding the pavement – and the added weight from all the cushions and support was hurting us! Their reasoning goes something like this, “Running with traditional running shoes, which weigh 300 to 400 grams, increase the amount of energy required to run because with every step, the running is lifting those weights.” Never thought of it like that. I just thought I needed all of that cushion to prevent my knees from aching or my heels from constantly suffering from the dreaded plantar fasciatis.
The researchers compared runners in lightweight shoes – weighing 150 grams – to barefoot runners who ran with leaded strips weighing 150 grams taped to the top of their feet. Carrying the same weight, the study found that barefoot running was actually less efficient compared to wearing light-weight shoes. (Now don’t shoot the messanger on this one. There are some folks who now live and breathe for their barefoot running. I’m not getting into that fight and am just giving you what this one study found!)
“What we found was that there seem to be adaptations that occur during the running stride that can make wearing shoes metabolically less costly,” Jason R. Franz, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado who led the study, told the New York Times. Shoes, he says, “provide some degree of cushioning.” If you eschew shoes, “something else has to provide the cushioning.”
This study didn’t look at any benefits of barefoot running. This study did support the need for looking into a different type of running shoe – not the cushioned, bulky trainer that was once popular, but a more protective, lighter shoe that protects feet without adding weight.
The new shoes and the minimalist movement is here in an attempt to correct decades of bad design resulting in injuries. “At its core, minimalism asks the runner to look for the least amount of shoe he or she can safely wear now, and to work toward reducing the amount of shoe necessary through strengthening the foot and improving one’s stride.” It is assumed that running is natural for our bodies and don’t need all the pads and that all this support “messes up” our natural stride.
Most running injuries following the running boom of the 1970s and 1980s were found to be achilles tendinitis, metatarsal fractures, shin splints and stress fractures. Also, other research was showing that runners hit hard in two places: the heel and the forefoot. So, the thought was that shoes needed elevated, cushioned heels to take stress off the Achilles tendon, plus a cushioned forefoot to protect the metatarsals. Two other injuries of concern were runner’s knee and plantar fasciitis. (And these are always my concern too!). Manufacturers then began using lots of heel lift, lots of cushioning, and, for runners who needed stability, lots of protection against excess pronation. That’s what we have been wearing for the past 25 years. And we just went out and pounded away!
Minimalist runners have a number of complaints about modern shoes. They argue that the more material added under the foot — foam, rubber, plastic, air bags, gel packets — the less a runner’s feet can “feel” the ground and the less he or she can use the foot-ground interaction.’“It’s like a gymnast landing on a mat that’s too soft,” says Michael Sandler, who coaches barefoot running in Boulder, Colo. “Or like trying to play the piano in heavily cushioned gloves.” The need to make firm, fully controlled contact with the ground, he argues, means that softer heels require you to come down harder than you would in less cushioned footwear.’ This actually does make some sense to me.
Some of my research went into what actually makes you faster and whether a minimal shoe is faster than barefoot. As far as I can find, it hasn’t been proven that barefoot is faster. I don’t think I’ve seen any barefoot competitors in the Olympics I’ve been glued to nightly, but I could be mistaken!
The author of Daniels’ Running Formula, Jack Daniels, (now that’s a name) is a coach and exercise physiologist who sometimes runs barefoot on tracks. He has conducted studies on the effects of footwear on oxygen demand that showed that minimal footwear is better. Most of his work was to look at the effect of shoe weight. His findings were that the “skimpier” designs increased performance … to a point. He did have a point that running on a track gives the runner all the shock absorption they needed. This, of course, is different than running on hard concrete or unsteady surfaces like trail running.
So, all of this jargon for the final nutshell. It seems that less is more to a point. However, like most anything, it’s an individual decision, ranging from a very minimal shoe to one offering more support. Shoe companies will be working to put alternatives on the shelves.
However, the experts do say that even though the direction is toward minimalism, it should be done responsibly. Make the change gradually, beginning with shorter distances to get your feet and body used to the new style and effect on your stride.
Diabetics should stay away from barefoot or minimal shoes as they don’t feel their feet. Also, those with rheumatoid arthritis or otherwise abnormal feet should stay away from these shoes.
So, start easy, both in how far you move away from the shoes you’ve been running in, and how long you spend in more minimal footwear.
Working new muscles to strengthen them is what running is about. However, we will likely find weaknesses that will then have to be addressed, hips, hamstrings, etc. The goal is to run better — more naturally, more efficiently, with less impact — making us less prone to injury, so we can run longer, and faster. It’s not about the shoes.”
credits: Much Ado About Minimalism The science and practice of reducing your running shoes By Richard A. Lovett
There you have it. When you are next at Sports Authority or whereever you happen to be looking at running shoes and notice the new “skimpy” design, there really is a reason behind the change. Some folks don’t like change. I have one friend that has worn the same pair of running shoes for 15 years! In fact, she recently ordered seven pairs when she heard they were being discontinued!
Whatever shoe you decide to try remember to just get out there and use them! The goal is to stay up and moving for many, many years and out of that wheelchair. . .
Do you stick with the same shoe or switch it up? Any barefooters out there? Know what I did for fun today? Watched I Love Lucy re-runs! I forgot how she can make me smile!