I’m really liking the trend that running shoe designers have been taking in the last year or so. The new running shoes are extremely lightweight and have much less of a heel which lets the foot get closer to the ground. As a result it is possible to run with a better posture and strike with the forefoot without feeling like you’re running on your toes. The reduced heel also reduces the risk of turning over an ankle.
On Friday I had to get a new pair of shoes to use in the gym since my outdoor running shoes are covered in gunk. So I found what may be the most comfortable pair of running shoes I have every had. They are New Balance MR790. They are amazingly light.
Here’s an interesting fact for you: The modern running shoe was invented by Nike in the late 1970s. The wedge shaped sole of the shoe was designed to make you feel like you were running fast, but no studies were really every done about that. With some very slick marketing they managed to convince people that the running shoe actually made you faster and reduced injury.
Over the past 3 decades surprisingly little research has been done about how shoe design impacts either performance/efficiency or injury prevention. However in the last few years there has been a growing crowd of people who claim that running barefoot is the best way to train. In fact some of the most notable running teams in the US are switching to barefoot running. The logic is pretty sound. The human foot has evolved to be very efficient at running and staying relatively injury resistant. The hundreds of small muscles and bones in the foot can be used for stability and forward acceleration but held tight to a shoe many of those muscles are restricted. Over time this causes the foot to weaken in several key spots as it adapts to the shoe. Those weak muscles won’t provide as much thrust as a a strong foot. For example, in a typical running shoe the smaller toes are too restricted to really provide any extra oomph to a runner. However, while barefoot those toes can make a noticeable difference.
I have also read about a number of people that have tried going barefoot for a while. After getting past the initial discomfort as their feet adapted they had some pretty remarkable effects. Everything from eliminated back pain to better posture, to faster pain free running.