How can running shoes affect our feet muscles?

Running shoe trends come and go, similar to diet trends. A few years ago, the trend was “barefoot” or “minimalist” running shoe trend. Then it switched to high cushioning shoe trend, similar to “low-fat diet” to “high-fat, low carb” (Keto) diet. When the minimalist shoe trend was popular, the recommendation was to avoid running shoes with cushioned midsoles that could hinder the running performance by altering the natural spring-like function of your foot, causing your foot and ankle muscles to work less, weaken over time and become more predisposed to injury. After a while, new running shoe mechanics tests were performed, with surprising results. Researchers did a test on 16 runners on the treadmill, they did two runs on the treadmill, one run wearing stability, cushioned shoes, and the other run barefoot. The runners had two tiny wires inserted into the largest muscles in the arch of the foot, to measure whether the muscles were working or not. The runners also wore a small reflective marker that allowed cameras to capture the 3-D movement of their feet. The results were impressive, the springiness of the arch was reduced while running in shoes, but there was an increase in the muscle use. When running in shoes, the foot senses that it’s landing on a soft surface and it tenses up the muscles to maintain the stability, the feet muscles actually respond while running in shoes. In running shoes, the arch muscles work harder in order to compensate for the cushioning and maintain stability. Runners who run in minimalist running shoes tend to have stiffer, stronger feet. The bottom line is that normal running shoes don’t block muscle function, there is more activation in muscles when we run in shoes than when we don’t.
Like any diet trend, runners need to avoid wearing extreme running shoe trends. Shoes that don’t follow a more natural foot form; high sole, high cushioning, can lower the stability- stiff soles, low cushioning can add more impact on the feet and not support the natural foot mechanics.

How to Choose the Right Shoes?

  1. Test your foot pronation– Depending on our foot form, we need to wear the right type of shoes that will help support our foot type. When trying different type of shoes according to your foot type, choose the shoes that feel more natural and comfortable, wearing shoes that don’t feel right will affect the feet, the running form and the performance.
  • Neutral pronators- Can wear a wide variety of shoes.
  • Underpronators- Need more cushioning to avoid strong impact.
  • Overpronators- Need more arch support or structured cushioning shoes.
  1. Choose shoes that will support your running distance or type of run.

Road Runs

  • Short, fast road runs- Shoes with more stable centre sole, lightweight cushioning with more responsive support that allows to run faster.
  • Long-distance road runs- A bit more cushioning, some stable centre sole for more push off responsiveness, a bit wider toe box for some foot inflammation, and not too heavy shoes.

 Trail Runs

  • Terrain – Depending on the terrain, if more technical more grip, and more stability to avoid ankle sprains.
  • For long-distance trail runs- A bit more cushioning and stability and wider toe box to support some inflammation.
  • For short-distance non-technical trail runs- Lighter shoes, more stable soles, lighter cushioning.
  • For combination of trail and road runs- Not too cushiony, not too much grip, to allow more responsive running mechanics.
  1. Choose shoes that fit your natural running form

If you wear running shoes that don’t feel right or comfortable, that means that it doesn’t fit your foot form and running form. You need to try and test the shoes and once you find a model that works for your type of run, you will see a difference in your performance and feeling more comfortable during and post-run. Find the shoe brand and model that fits your road run and trail run and running distances.

Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Strong!