What shoes should I wear?
A question I get asked all the time is "what shoes should I wear?" It’s a great question and it’s not easy for anyone looking to get a new pair of gym shoes. There are so many options out there and so much information from running shoe companies about how theirs is the best and why. Everything from the most complex:
to the most minimalist:
So what the hell to do?
Let’s try and help your decision a little bit. First off think about this: shoe makers need to make lots of money. To make lots of money they need to make lots of products, to make lots of products they need to innovate (read come up with bullshit you will believe and buy). With this in mind, it is easier to look at shoes more objectively. Do I really need the patented ‘super dry ultimate support cushion make you superman buzzword technology’? Nope you do not and if you do then we are in trouble! When we take this element out of shoe choice we can go for a much more minimalist approach. An approach that science is beginning to back. Check out these articles for a deeper look at how we are meant to make contact with the floor:
Now before we go further I am not advocating that you go straight out there and start running barefoot. This is not what this discussion is about. This is just some of my advice when it comes to picking shoes. There are much better resources out there for you serious runners. I will note one thing though. If you say you need a lot of cushioning for your running, then you have problems and realistically should not be running until you can rely on your own joint, muscle and ligament structure for support instead of some ridiculous shoe like this:
Minimize the drop from heel to toe.
The first change I recommend is to find a shoe without a raised heel. Most shoes have a heel that is considerably higher than the toes. This has been shown to promote heel striking which has been shown to increase impact forces through the body.
Find a narrow heel and a wide toe birth.
Speaking of heels, we see a lot of shoes with the sole of the heel being considerably wider than the heel itself. Again this promotes a heel strike, so, look for a shoe with a heel the same width as your heel.
On the point of width, we want our toes to be able to spread and flex. Therefore, shoes that are too narrow in the toe box restrict the mobility of the toes and vastly diminish their function. Let those toes breath!
A lot of companies always harp on about support and motion control. Again we want to be able to control our own motion, not have an overly stiff shoe do it. If you can’t, then it’s time to look at that question of whether or not you should be doing what you are doing without that control.
Think about trying to twist your shoes like the picture below:
Let your feet feel the ground.
This is where we really start to get kickback, especially from runners. This is cushioning and support. While it’s arguably the most important aspect of picking a shoe, I'm putting it last on my list of tips, because I understand it's the hardest for a lot you to give up. Once again if you are so afraid to leave your cushioned shoes behind, the question once again pops its head up. Should I be running? You know the answer if you have to ask it!
The reality is that our feet need to be able to feel the surface that we're walking on. It is vital! Without it, the neural system has no idea what signals it should be sending our joints about what kind impact to prepare for.
I'm not going to specifically tell you what brands to go out and buy and definitely not if you are a serious runner -- this is more of a general approach for what I look for in a shoe. Personally I loved the Nike Free 3 for my work day in the gym. Unfortunately they don’t make those anymore. When I hike or run (I don’t go on long runs), I wear the Vibram Five finger shoes. I love those shoes, really love them. Now that we've opened our Inwood Gym we don’t allow shoes, so I spend most of my days barefoot. If you ask our MovNat instructor, Patrick, he will tell you he doesn’t like any shoes at all as he walks off into the New York City streets barefoot!
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Photo cred here.