You all know that I am a proponent of natural running. I try not to get preachy on you about it because I know that for some people, traditional shoes and the gait they create works. But sometimes, I get really frustrated with traditional shoe stores and their old school thinking on the need for correction via shoes.
This is all spurred on by an anecdote related to me by a friend recently. She had taken her teenage son into a shoe store to buy some running shoes. After the store’s “analysis” of his foot and running form, they immediately wanted to steer him into a stability shoe and inserts. Here’s where my hackles go up when I hear something like this:
- The “analysis” a shoe store does is just a completely irrelevant model. Walking in your bare feet, doing a “wet test” to check out your arch height, and even running on a treadmill for a few minutes tells a shoe store employee nothing of value. First, you walk completely differently than you run. Second, your arch height does not mean you’ll land a certain way or that you need to compensate for that with a certain shoe type. Third, a short stint on a treadmill under the supervision of a shoe store employee cannot possibly give enough feedback on how you run for them to prescribe a certain type of shoe for you.
- Shoes designed for stability and motion control indicate that there’s something “wrong” with your natural gait that needs correction. I’m sorry, but in all but the rarest of rare cases, that’s just not the case. Our feet are designed to manage pronation while running all by themselves. Our bodies are designed to run. There is yet to be a study that demonstrates correcting “problems” with one’s natural gait will reduce injuries. Don’t buy into it.
- Everyone likes to think that they are special, and shoe stores know this. They love to tell you how your unusually high arches mean you need a certain type of shoe, or that your flat feet mean you need “arch support.” You don’t. Period.
Here’s the thing, though. I know most of you come from a background of these “corrective” shoes (I certainly did). I’m not suggesting you pitch them and plunge right into a Vibram Five Finger or New Balance Minimus. You’d get hurt. All I’m suggesting is that you consider the nonsense that so many shoe companies want to feed you. They want to sell you a shoe. They’ve been working off this model of selling for many, many years and it will take some time before they start to come around (some probably never will). I’m just suggesting that you ask yourself, or the shoe sales person, “why” when considering this type of shoe. Why do you need all that heel elevation? Why do you need gait control? Why do you need all that cushioning?
I can tell you that I used to be in a stability shoe, as well as orthotics, because I had a podiatrist tell me I should not even walk in my bare feet, much less run in them. And all that extra control did one thing–got me injured repeatedly. Since throwing the orthotics out and making the switch in form and shoes, my body has never felt better.
Like I said at the beginning, if you’ve been in traditional shoes for a long time and you are NOT getting injured, then why fix what isn’t broken? Your body has adapted to this way of running and it works for you. But if you are or have been injured and you’re in a “corrective” shoe, consider that it might throw your natural gait off enough that it leads to injury (barring your own obvious training mistakes).
If I can’t convince you, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, one of the pioneers of natural running in our country, writes about all this from a far more educated standpoint than mine–take a minute and see what he has to say on the matter.
What do you think? Do most shoe stores hurt or help the runner with their approach?