Let me preface this post by telling you that I’ve worn all of the shoes that I talk to patients about at one time or another. I’ve been a triathlete longer than I’ve been a doctor and, as a triathlete, I was always a sucker for the newest product on the market.
Wait…what? Those shoes cost $250.00 but they are ONLY sold in the local Tri shop AND they are fluorescent pink?!
Woohoo, I’ll take three!
Not to name names but this may or may not have been my own experience many years ago with a certain shoe that shares a name with a famous fig-based treat because I saw them informally endorsed by a company that promotes 140+ mile races.
I treat running injuries all day long, and from a clinical standpoint the list of shoes that I like is long. However, the list of shoes that genuinely scare me is short. When deciding on what to carry in our new running shoe store we put a lot of thought and time into test-driving and believing in the shoes we sell. After all, if we won’t wear them why would we put them on your feet?
Here are 3 popular shoes we won’t ever carry, and why:
Brooks Beast (aka Cinderblocks):
Despite its popularity I have yet to run across a single patient that I have wanted to put in this shoe. Motion control shoes attempt to stop pronation and this shoe is on the far end of that spectrum. I spend a good part of every day in the clinic explaining to my patients that pronation is a normal and extremely necessary part of the gait cycle, despite what they hear at most shoe stores. By stopping the foot’s natural pronation process, you are not “fixing” someone’s gait, you are merely re-distributing the force somewhere else, like into the shin, knee, or hip. There are a lot of other shoe options out there that still allow the foot to move normally through the gait cycle without the weight and torsional rigidity of the Brooks Beast. If you are someone that pronates so much that you feel you need this shoe, you probably ought to think about some rehab and biomechanics work before you stack on too many running miles.
Vibram Five Fingers:
This is like picking on Timmy from South Park, it’s just too easy. Here’s the thing: I’m actually a huge fan of the concept of barefoot running. The problem is, most people are in no way ready for it and are not willing to do the work to get there. Do Vibrams encourage a more “natural” running form? Depends on what you consider natural. Our feet are crammed into shoes as babies before we even start walking. Our feet and bodies adapt to having cushion under them and end up being shaped like the insole of a shoe for a reason. Vibrams do encourage a shorter stride and decreased heel strike, but they also encourage stress fractures, shin splints, and Achilles tendonitis in people who aren’t prepared to do the hard work involved with taking away the cushion their foot is used to.
Newton has made some pretty serious modifications to their shoe-line since they began, including adding a 5th “actuator lug” and minimizing the lug size by quite a bit. The idea behind these shoes is that the lugs are positioned to give the body proprioceptive feedback that helps the runner know where they are landing during foot-strike in order to decrease the propensity of many runners to heel-strike
(by the way…it’s not always about the heel strike…but I’ll save that for another day). The biggest problem I have with these shoes is that the length of people’s metatarsals and phalanges vary pretty drastically from person to person (this is why some people have long toes and others have short toes even though they have the same size foot) meaning that the lugs don’t often sit where the intended foot-strike should occur and people end up landing too far forward, resulting in the common complaints of Achilles tendonitis and shin splints.
What’s the take-home message? A shoe isn’t going to “fix” your gait. Despite the fact that the big motor movements are the same, there is a spectrum when it comes to ideal running form. People have all kinds of variances in strength, flexibility, length of bones, etc. The bottom line is…stop trying to find a shoe that will solve your running issues. Find out where your weaknesses are and start putting in the time to fix them. No shoe in the world can replace the gains that can be made by working on your mechanics.