Category Archives for Stability Shoe Pseudoscience

Best Articles on: Foot Shape & Movement

Application of the Wet Test & Static Arch Height for Assessing Running Shoes | Pete Larson at RunBlogger | “despite significant differences in arch collapse between the groups during static testing, arch collapse was identical in all three groups during walking, and the only difference observed during running was a small but significant difference between the hypermobile and hypomobile groups”

Can Arch Height Predict Your Running Injuries? | Alex Hutchinson | “There’s no simple, guaranteed connection between your arch height (or any other foot or stride parameter) and your injury destiny or your shoe needs. But there are risk factors that may tilt your odds one way or another—so if you struggle with recurring running injuries, knowing your arch height may offer one more clue to help you sort them out.”

Running Pronation & Over Pronation | Steve Gangemi at SockDoc | “If you want to move well you’ll want to pronate!”

How Does Your Arch Height Affect Your Shoe Choice and Injury Risk? | John Davis at RunnersConnect | “Overall, whether you have a high or low arch will not affect your risk of injury, nor should it affect what type of shoe you choose, but it could affect where you get injured.” 

Do You Pronate? A Shoe Fitting Tale | Pete Larson at Runblogger | “If you pronate, you should get one of the shoes labeled stability.”

You may also like: Best Articles on Shoe Selection

Stability Shoe Pseudoscience

My friend Rick at EngagingMuscles.com made a comment at a blog recently, and I wanted to post it here for you to read and consider.

The original post:

With less than two months to go until the half marathon (eek!) I thought it was about time I invested in some proper running trainers. My Nike IDs have been amazing – they started my running journey, are great trainers for the gym and have been the first ever pair of workout trainers that I have actually worked out in. Pretty impressive. But as I have been notching up the miles I have noticed more rubbing on the insides of my feet and a few blisters starting to form. I thought it was about time I headed to a running store to see what the experts advised. I had a gait test to establish what kind of runner I am. I ran on a treadmill in my Nike IDs for a few minutes whilst the store assistant filmed it. Afterwards we watched my running back and watched, in slow mo, how my feet hit the ground and how they left it. It was really interesting to see myself running and it taught me a lot. The assistant advised me that my running style was good and that my legs were straight when hitting the ground but as my feet left the ground they were turning in slightly, which can cause blisters and knee injuries. Apparently this is a common thing for runners.

Based on the gait test he gave me three pairs of running trainers to test. And it was a thorough test – I was even able to run outside in each pair to test them for comfort. The ones that appealed to me most were the Asics GT-2000. They were cushioned, gave great support and the inside arch has an extra support to stop your foot from turning in after it leaves the ground. In theory this should provide a much more comfortable run and limit damage to your knees. So I purchased them and have now been out three times in them, a few 5Ks and a 10K.

So far, so good. They are very comfortable and light-weight but they also feel strong, like they are really supporting your entire frame. The heel is cushioned so I feel like the impact is definitely getting reduced. My toes have started to hurt slightly – I’m not sure whether that’s because my feet are being forced into the right position and they are used to running in the wrong one! Only time will tell. But with only a few months to go until the race I better start increasing the miles…

Rick’s comment:

I just came across your blog for the first time. From what I’ve read it sounds like you take running and training seriously. Because of that, I figured I’d take a moment to let you know that making the jump from a Nike Free Run to a “stability” running shoe is going to decrease your *performance* and most likely lead to an injury over the long-haul.

To say the same thing in a slightly different way, although your new shoe is providing your entire chain with an artificial support, it’s also making your feet and the entire chain (much!) weaker on every step.

There are various factors that contribute to a walk-in running shoe store wanting to sell you a “stability” shoe. There are even times where the sales person makes a few dollars more. That being said, I don’t have anything to gain by convincing you that a running shoe with an orthotic built into it is the right thing for you. But I do have the knowledge to back up what I’m telling you here.

The bottom line is this: If you want to perform *optimally* and avoid an injury, don’t wear a “stability” shoe. Does that mean you won’t have an injury down the road? No. But at least you’ve taken a step in the right direction to avoid an injury.

For the most part, it sounds like your Nike Free wasn’t too short or narrow. (Side Bar: Nike running shoes fit a 1/2 size shorter than other brands) In most cases, blisters are due to these three factors: (1) Wearing a non-technical sock that’s primarily made from cotton and (2) wearing a shoe with a mid-sole cushioning system that’s broken down and (3) lastly, a sloppy fit.

An Injinji toe sock is always a good investment! They make a technical sock that will allow your toes to move throughout the toe box.

If you like the feel of of the cushioning in the ASIC’s 2000, they also make the Cumulus. That shoe is in the “neutral” category. It will provide you with close to the same amount of cushioning, and still allow you to perform better over the long-haul.

As far as what the running shoe specialist at the store told you about your foot mechanics: The front of your foot is supposed to roll in just prior to leaving the ground, e.g., propulsion. And if that’s not enough to reinforce my point, consider this: Running on a treadmill is nothing like moving across planet Earth.

I hope you find this to be helpful.

My own comment.

A few thoughts…

As Rick pointed out, your foot is absolutely supposed to turn inward and pronate before leaving the ground. That’s natural and necessary. My feet do it. Rick’s do it. The world record holder in the marathon’s feet does it.

With your running style, I find it interesting that people purchase shoes to make up for poor running form/lack of strength rather than simply try to strengthen their own body and improve technique. I believe Rich is correct when saying that a cushioned shoe will weaken the foot. You know what happens to a leg when placed in a cast…

To the original poster, my first thought when reading that you were getting blisters but also increasing your running pace and volume was that it’s possible with the increased volume you’re simply spending more time running when slightly fatigued. It’s common for that compromised running form to result in a bit more of a shuffle, which can increase the amount your foot moves around inside the shoe and causes blisters.

In my own experience as someone that was sold very cushioned and controlling shoes do “deal” with my “over-pronation”, I’ve been much happier and uninjured over the last 10,000+ miles in neutral, zero drop, and low profile footwear.

Wear Pattern & Stride

0 vs 1200 miles

0 vs 1200 miles

Wear pattern on shoes has long been held as a way to determine stride characteristics.

However the truth is that shoe wear pattern does little (or nothing) to actually tell you what your feet are actually doing, as they have a great deal of movement inside the shoe independent of the footwear.

Wear pattern also completely ignores how your feet are interacting with the ground in relation to your body positioning. This important factor may be more crucial than how your foot actually touches the ground.

Below is the initial post asking about Heel Wear Pattern, followed by my response and two others.

So my running shoes show a significant amount of wear on the outer heels of both shoes.

 I run in Brooks Ghost 6s which are Neutral.  It’s almost time for me to buy a new pair.  Does this wear pattern indicate anything that I’m doing wrong and/or should I be looking into getting a different type of shoe? -AStack75

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No indication of anything wrong. If they’re comfortable and you’re happy with them, feel free to purchase the same or a similar pair. I’d recommend getting that new pair and slowly transitioning from the old to the new pair. Start off with your shortest run in the new pair and every week you could add one more run in the new shoes until the old ones are phased out, or you can wear them both for as long as that other pair is good for.

Depending on how long you’ve had the shoes and how significant the wear is, it could possibly hint that you’re heal striking a bit heavily. It’s most important to try to not land with a straight and outstretched leg in front of your body, but land with a flexed knee closer to under your center of mass, perhaps with a slightly less pronounced dorsiflexion of the ankle. But again, that’s just a “maybe” without actually seeing you run. -kjkranz

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The above is good advice. 

Some people will tell you heel striking is bad. Don’t listen to them. What’s bad is landing with the knee extended and the foot out in front of you as kjkranz states. 

If there’s a lot of wear on the heel, it’s also possible that you scuff or slide the foot as you land–I’ve seen people do that. But lateral heel wear is pretty normal even without a gait problem. There’s a reason many manufacturers put more durable rubber in that area. -Duck916

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Yeah, that’s a typical wear pattern.  And I like kjkranz recommendations on running form. -Nazaretti

“You Pronate?” I hope so!

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I would like to draw to your attention a fantastic article written by Pete over at RunBlogger.com on his experience observing a shoe fitting and his further thoughts.

He starts with the unfortunately ever-so common first questions, when you sit in front of the shoe store employee, “Do you pronate?”

This entire exchange reinforced for me why I hate the whole pronation model of fitting shoes. First, the question “Do you pronate?” revealed that the clerk didn’t really understand what pronation is, and was probably just repeating something she had been told to ask by a manager, brand, or store fitting procedure. The reality is that everybody pronates, and pronation is a completely normal movement. (I should note that the term pronation as used colloquially is typically equivalent to rearfoot eversion, the actual movement is a bit more complex) We might vary in how much we pronate, but asking someone if they pronate is like asking them if they breathe. I’d actually be much more concerned if the customer had revealed that no, she doesn’t pronate. At all. That would be worrisome.

Next, Pete moves onto explain a bit about the research (or lack of) behind prescribing footwear based on static or even measured foot type or shape.

And finally, even if there was an accurate assessment of how much this customer pronated, I still have yet to see strong evidence saying A) how much pronation is too much for a given individual, B) that any given shoe is effective at controlling pronation when you look at the actual movement of the foot inside the shoe (and there are no data I’m aware of showing the relative pronation-controlling effectiveness of the various shoes on the market), or C) that fitting a shoe based on amount of pronation is warranted or effective from an injury prevention standpoint.

For those interested in either reading a great article on what they already know, or are curious on more up to date science behind footwear and foot movement, please give the article a read!

Be sure to check out my Articles of Interest page for further reading as well!

 

Blame the Runner

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I just added a new Article of Interest to the page. From Outside Magazine, the author discusses something that I’ve seen so many times. He does not say it outright, but it’s there.

Runners simply don’t take responsibility for their poor choices. 

They blame something extrinsic when they themselves are the cause.

Blame the Runner: Shoes Don’t Cause Injuries | Devon Jackson at Outside | “Up to 90 percent of running injuries could be classified as training errors, says Langer. One’s body mass index, history of injury, amount of pronation, too little rest, too much high-intensity running (hills, speed workouts), not enough cross training, abrupt changes in training volume, etc.”

Choose the Right Running Shoe | Mackenzie Lobby at Competitor | “Langer points out that 60–80 percent of running injuries are due to training errors, not footwear. “I usually tell my patients that in terms of running injuries, shoes are like quarterbacks: They get too much credit when things are good and too much blame when things are bad.””

Example of a runner not taking responsibility for their poor training choices in shoes they were not ready for.

I mean, I get it.

People like to place blame elsewhere.

But it’s often not the case.

Injured?

Poor form.
Weak hips, glutes, etc
Bad training choices
Too much volume, intensity,
Not enough rest, easy running
No transition time to training changes (footwear, terrain, volume, etc)
You’re overweight
The warning signs were ignored and trained through

These cause injury.

This is also were a coach comes into play. One of my athletes was practically a chronically injured runner when I was first getting to know him. I was honestly a little hesitant to take him on. However with myself working with him he cut about 10 minutes off his marathon time with a 3:04 Boston Qualification and just ran his first sub 18 minute 5k, completely injury free for the entire marathon training cycle.

“Running is a skill and how one runs matters more than what is on one’s feet,” declares Harvard University paleoanthropologist Dan Lieberman, the popularize of minimalist running also known as the Barefoot Runner. “Natural selection is a much better engineer than any shoe designer. So my null hypothesis is that less shoe is better until proven otherwise.”

I believe the best shoe for most people is a neutral option that allows the foot to move and the body to position naturally. Cushioning and protection are great, but the body must be able to function well.

Let’s break down some of the injury causes mentioned above:

Poor Form
A low cadence, high vertical movement, overstriding, landing with a straight knee, bent over posture. These are visually obvious poor form characteristics than can cause issues. Just because we were “born to run” does not mean everyone can do it well.

Weak Muscles
I recall a study that found a direct correlation to weak glutes and Illiotibial Tract Friction Syndrome. Hips are also an often overlooked muscle group.

Bad Training Choices
Such as running too much volume, speed work, not recovering properly, not slow enough transitioning to any new change in training, not doing ancillary work.

Weight
One of the reasons it’s believed that runners actually have lower incidence of arthreitis in old age is because they tend to weigh less than their inactive counterparts.

Ignored Warning Signs
Numerous times in the past I’ve felt a little injury coming on and was able to avoid injury by changing my training. For example, I jumped into trail running a bit too quickly moved to the Black Hills National Forest a few years back, and my ankles really felt it. Instead of ignoring this or pushing through it, I simply stayed on less technical trails and the road a bit more. The ankles were then able to “catch up” and I slowly moved back to the rocky trails.

Another example was last winter when I moved to the treadmill a bit too quickly. My hamstrings really felt it, I believe it was a combo of being on the treadmill as well as the treadmill’s incline (I now live on a very very flat part of South Dakota). I was able to avoid taking any time off from running, again, due to being mindful of my body and noticing what was happening. I eased back my volume a bit, avoided the treadmill incline, and was able to heel up within a few weeks and be back to full training. No problems.

Below if an example of the runner blaming the shoes and not taking responsibility

“but (they) caused me some nasty injuries”

“I think it was a more the too much too fast”

RW: “Heel Landing Beats Midfoot In Half-Marathon Study”

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This is a repost from The Motivated Runner website. I suggest you visit and subscribe over there, Jack shares a lot of great content.

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Yesterday there was an article that came from RunnersWorld.com concerning the almighty mid-foot vs. rearfoot debate. This debate has raged for the past 10 years with attempts to answer the question in a black and white fashion. Most of us have realized by now that nothing in life is black and white, including foot strike. I have my opinion on the topic, but also realize that different things work for different people.

I get really annoyed with Runner’s World because many posts are what I would consider ”hacky”. They have found ways to make viewers pay attention, click on their links, and read their articles all in the interest of ad money and readership of their flailing publication. This is nothing new or novel and somewhat the model of how every website and blog works, but I do believe there are more responsible ways to go about it.

Runner’s World loves to post the same articles over and over as well as articles with little to no information. Amby Burfoot’s most recent post on a study conducted by the University of Spain was one such article. The title stated: “Heel Landing Beats Midfoot in Half-Marathon Study”. So, of course, everyone clicked on it as Runner’s World would hope. I too, was sucked in thanks to FaceBook messages, emails, and tweets from friends. The article had little to no substance on an insufficient study, with no details of how the study was conducted. This of course created a firestorm of comments, likes, twitter conversations, and buzz. Exactly what Runner’s World needs to try to save a struggling publication of repeating material.

So enough Runner’s World bashing, on to issues with their post and what we don’t know about the study:

1. Efficiency is a whole body issue, not just foot strike. Runners have many inefficiencies in their posture, arm swing, breathing, and alignment. To say that the efficiency of running is completely based around a mid-foot or forefoot strike is incorrect.
2. All of the runners were able to run in whatever shoe they liked. We know that shoe choice can affect gait mechanics. A higher heeled shoe can catch and encourage a strike more out in front of the body (typically with heel first), whereas a level platform shoe allows for the foot to swing through more freely and land closer to the body (less drastic heel landing or mid-foot strike).
3.The study contained only 20 runners. 20 is a very small sample size and not one in which an accurate data set can be gathered. It’s hard to come to conclusions with only 20 people.
4. Treadmill running was the only form of measurement. With the exception of the winter months, runners are most typically outside hitting the roads. Treadmill running isn’t a direct comparison to road running. I do realize that gathering data outside is difficult.
5. The title of the article simply states that heel landing “beats” mid-foot striking at the half marathon distance. However, inside the article they state that mid-foot strikers are on average faster. Running faster leads to decreased running economy. Just like driving faster lowers MPG. The goal is to run as fast as you can and have nothing left at the finish, not to have the highest MPG. That being said, if you run out of gas, you go slower or stop. It’s a trade off. As far as I know, the faster time “beats” the slower time in races.

I have been really annoyed with the number of irresponsible articles in all forms of media lately. After doing a lot of research of what sells on my website, I have seen trends in many of the “hacky” websites. It’s quite disturbing to say the least and goes unnoticed to the typical consumer.

I want everyone to be more aware of what is going on and to question silly articles like these. They are misleading and focused on driving ad sales and magazine sales. Question the authenticity of all studies and try to go to the root of it, not the Runner’s World take on it. Although, Runner’s World made that impossible by not providing a link to the abstract of the study. Runner’s World, you receive a F.

Shoe Surgery

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Experiencing irritation of the achilles tendon by the rubbing of a high and stiff heel tab is an unfortunate and easily preventable injury.

I’m not talking about a simple blister here, but actual irritation of the tendon.

Achilles tendonitis can hopefully become a thing of the past with the below easy fix, but be warned it may change the sizing of the shoe.

I’ve experienced similar irritation from the elastic band that was used on the original Vibram Fivefinger, that went over the top of the foot. The band pressing down on the tendons simply created a pressure point for irritation,  extensor tendonitis in that case.

As for the remedy, 5 time world record holder Gordon Pirie recommends:

The quickest remedy to this problem is to take a knife to the curved piece of shoe material and cut it off, so that the top of the shoe
heel is level with the rest of the upper, and below the level of the soft tissue of the Achilles tendon. The top of the shoe heel must not be higher than the bony heel. Runners who come to me limping with very sore Achilles tendons are able to run away with their
pain relieved after this surgery is performed on the shoe (with the shoe removed, of course). This “operation” will make the shoe about half a size larger than it was originally, so bear this in mind when purchasing shoes.