Does my bum look big in these? . . . don’t blame the shoes!
You must have heard the saying "Does My Bum Look Big In These" when someone is trying on a new pair of jeans, and the partner's reply is "Don't Blame The Jeans"
The same thing goes for running shoes. "I tried running in "X" shoe, but it gave me an injury". My response to this would be "Don't Blame The Shoes" - It wasn't the shoe that gave you an injury, it was what you did in it.
Perhaps too much training, perhaps too quick of a change from cushioned to minimalist, your injury could have resulted from a huge number of variables, but to blame the shoe is wrong.
Just like the jeans. It wasn't the jeans that made your bum look big, it was the chocolate cake and too many pies!
Fix your diet and the jeans will look great
Fix your running technique and your body, and the shoes will work just fine.
So if you can't blame the shoes for your injuries, then does choosing the right shoe actually matter?
Of course it does . . . but how do you know what to get?
There is so much conflicting advice on running shoes that it is difficult to know what to believe.
- Do you need lots of cushioning?
- Do you need support?
- What if you've got flat feet?
- Should you go minimalist?
- What should the pitch of your shoe be?
- Do you need specialist trail shoes?
- The list goes on . . .
Prior to 1967 choosing a pair of shoes wasn't this difficult. There was NO cushioning and there was NO support. From 1967 until 2009 (when Born to Run was published) the general trend of the running shoe industry and evolution of the actual shoes, was to add more cushioning and support almost every year. Each shoe brand would then add their own unique gadgets and gizmos in an attempt to get you to buy. An air bag, or a carbon plate or some sort of forward propulsion system was the next best thing to help you run further and faster.
The reasoning behind the extra cushioning was that it would allow a longer stride, and if you run with longer strides you will run faster. This is true . . . but they didn't bank on the change in biomechanics which results from a longer stride causing so many injuries.
In 2009 Chris McDougall's awesome book Born To Run was published, which almost single-handedly resulted in an about-turn by the running shoe industry, and even more so, an about-turn in public perception. Suddenly "Barefoot Running" and "Minimalist" running shoes like Vibram Five Fingers were in vogue. We all wanted to run barefoot through the Copper Canyon mountains like the Tarahumara tribe who feature in the book.
Barefoot running was going to be the answer to everyones problems.
BUT, after years of running in thick, cushioned, and supportive shoes, our soft and relatively weak feet weren't ready for minimalism, and as a result, just as many, if not more injuries occurred.
Achilles tendonitis, Calf muscle strains, and stress fractured feet were the most common problems as we struggled to cope with the increased stresses our lower legs were exposed to in the thinner shoes.
Thankfully, in the last 4 - 5 years, the running shoe industry seems to have found the happy medium, or at the very least, they are now creating such a wide variety of running shoes that there is something for everyone.
So how do you choose the right shoe?
The answer to this question lies mostly in how you run and how your body functions, not in what type of foot you have.
There is still an overriding perception that if your foot rolls in, or if you have "flat feet" then you need some sort of arch support or motion control to stop your foot from collapsing inwards.
If you run with long strides, with your foot landing a long way out in front of your body (bad technique) then choosing a cushioned and supportive shoe might be beneficial in terms of reducing the chance of some injuries like shin splints and ITB issues occurring.
But, if you are choosing a shoe for that reason, then you are "treating" the symptoms of your injuries and not the cause.
My advice would be to improve your running technique and your body first, so that your choice of shoe matters less.
You will find that with good running technique, mobile ankle joints, strong and flexible calf muscles, and good core strength and stability, that you will be able to run in a whole range of shoes.
To help you decide which pair of shoes to choose next (while you are working to improve your technique, strength and flexibility) make sure you read THIS ARTICLE which will give you some specific body parameters to measure and test and guide you towards the correct shoe.