There are so many running shoes on the market and many of them are very expensive, especially if you’re on a tight budget. I’d like to explain how to choose the best running shoe for your needs and also tell you about two excellent running shoes that I recommend among the different types you can buy. I’m not promoting any particular brands, but I do like to share information on products that I use myself and am comfortable recommending.
The Traditional Shoe isn’t Necessarily the Best Shoe
If you go into a lot of running stores or shoe stores, you will see that the higher priced shoes, such as the Asics and Adidas, are very bulky type of shoes with a lot of support, structure and cushioning. For decades, we’ve accepted this type of shoe as the best shoe for running.
However, I learned in biomechanics class at university that many shoe companies do little research into the mechanics of the body and the way it moves and is impacted when running. They basically manufacture the types of shoes that they think people want. I learned this from my professor, who had done a good deal of consulting for many of the top running shoe manufacturers.
What Traditional Shoes are Doing to Your Body
Now here’s what’s wrong with these expensive old-school running shoes. If you look at these bulky, structured running shoes, you’ll see that if you hold the toe in one hand and the heel in the other and try to twist the shoe, it’s not going to give. With most of the very structured, cushioned shoes, you also won’t be able to flex it much, if at all.
This is important, because they do not allow your foot to do what it’s supposed to do naturally when you’re running. If you think about it for a moment, back in the day we were ran barefoot, right? We were all barefoot and as a result of that, the foot naturally strengthened; it strengthened the tendons and all those intrinsic muscles underneath the sole of the foot, between the toes. These are all very important to give you a sense of proprioception; that sense of stability and balance. That’s a very important thing that we do not get with these very structured running shoes. So, doesn’t matter if you are older, younger, if you have back pain or if you have knee pain, that cushioning you think you need is not nearly as important as stability and balance.
Another important thing about the structured, old-school shoe is the heel lip. If you look at the typical running shoe, you’ll see that the heel is about ½-inch to 1-inch high, with a lip that extends back beyond the heel by about ½ an inch.
Now, the problem with having such a big heel or big sole is that it alters the structure and the biomechanics of your posture and your body when you are walking, running or even just standing. It shifts the way your hips are aligned and over time, that puts a lot more strain in your back and your hamstrings and literally just leads its way up your body.
The heel lip, also called a heel flare, just makes things worse. It actually creates a big lever from your shin. Essentially, when you contact the floor the heel flare is going to be your first point of contact. This turns it into a lever for my foot, which creates tremendous pressure on the shin and the muscles along the shin that propel your body forward.
These reasons are why moving away from the big heel to a flat, barefoot-type shoe is a much better alternative and more natural choice. Let’s move on to the two shoes I do use and recommend.
The Nike Free Barefoot-Type Running Shoe
The Nike Free has been one of my favorites for a long time and this is pretty much my all-purpose shoe; but I need to warn you we are talking about a shoe for straightforward motion here. So, if you are looking at a running shoe, these are great. If you’re cross-training or playing tennis, this is not the shoe you need. These are for straight forward and back movement – walking, jogging, sprinting – because, as I said, this type of shoe has absolutely no type of support, no lateral support, and that’s great for running but not for lateral movements. So, you don’t want to do any cross training or sideways motion with this type of shoes.
I can literally fold the Nike Free shoe in half and that’s great because now it’s allowing the foot to do more of what it’s supposed to do naturally. When you wear this for the first time, you will find that your foot just kind of moves around inside it; it’s finding its way and it’s doing what it needs to do to grip, to propel you towards those intrinsic muscles that you don’t work when your foot is in a big bulky shoe.
The Vibrams Running Shoe
The other shoe I use and recommend is the Vibrams. If you’ve never seen these before, they are like gloves, right down to the individual toes. There is no structure to the shoe; you can crumple it right up like paper. The Vibrams were developed as a barefoot shoe, almost like the Aquasock for paddling sports. It’s for basic walking; and believe it or not, this one actually has more cushioning or more sole structure than their other walking or other classic models. The running model has a 4-mm sole; just enough to provide the shock absorption and support you need, without interfering with stability and balance.
Barefoot is the way to go, guys. Very little sole, very little heel, with your foot free to find its stability and balance and your body in proper alignment.