What shoes should I wear? Are you a runner? Are you trying to start up a running program? And what about for walking? Do the same rules apply? As a personal training studio in Glenview, we often get asked what are the best shoes for working out. I’ll start to unravel some of these questions and help you develop your own answers.
Most likely you have heard the debate: traditional vs. minimalist style running shoes. Many of the articles are very black and white in what they think is best for everyone. The bottom line is this: It depends on the state your body is currently in. I did say body, not just your feet. Too many times the “experts” are only looking at your feet but you need to look at all the joints and know a person’s history before giving recommendations.
Joints are designed to MOVE, and they need WEIGHT BEARING exercise to stay healthy! The big question is, how much is too much? This is a very individual question but one thing we know for sure is that with out movement our joints stiffen up (don’t use it you lose it!). However, if we overly stress the joints, then the same thing will happen! Therefore, we feel “tight” after a hard workout. The muscles are fatigued, and the body is protecting for the temporary weakness. Research has shown if we do not bear weight and put forces through the joints, the bones begin to lose density and the joints do not get proper nutrition.
Now we’re getting back to our original question. We know for sure each foot has 26 bones. That’s over 50 joints which need to move! The foot is also better than any shock absorber man has ever created! There are many people in this world who can run with minimal footwear (no support) into their golden years never stopping for injury. Two things to realize here. #1. Those people were probably mechanically put together well for running in the first place. #2. Most likely they also did not have many injuries over the years that would have caused compensation and less efficient mechanics.
Bottom line – If you have not had many injuries in the past and you have decent running mechanics, the more you allow your foot to move “naturally” when running, the stronger you will keep the surrounding musculature, joints, and bones. However, if you have had injuries and/or have been in supportive running shoes for many years, then you will need to be careful. You will need to transition very gradually and allow your muscles to adapt. If done correctly, making the change can be a very rewarding experience and potentially prevent many injuries. If done to drastically, making the change could cause more harm than good.