What’s in a Shoe? Heel to Toe Drop.

Why do we care about heel to toe drop? Well, because it’s one of the aspects of a shoe that have people thinking it could help or contribute to injuries.

The heel to toe drop of a shoe is the difference of the sole’s thickness at the heel compared to at the toe of the shoe. Most shoes have a heel to toe drop of 10-12 mm, while minimalist shoes have a heel to toe drop of less than 4 mm. To give you an idea, an inch is 25.4 mm

For clarity’s sake, I want to be clear on what I mean by minimalist in this post. There are two major tenets of minimalist: first, the amount of heel to toe drop and second, the amount of cushioning. This post is talking about heel to toe drop, which I’ll use instead of the term minimalist. If amount of cushioning comes into play in this post, it will be clearly indicated.  If anyone is interested the other tenets are weight, added motion control technology and flexibility. Here is a scientific article on how a minimalist shoe is defined.

The most recent research says there’s no difference in injury rate in runners who run in a lower drop shoe as compared to those who have a higher drop shoe so long as the runners who have switched to lower or zero drop have done so with an adequate transition, which we’ll talk about in a second.

A lower heel to toe drop could be good for people with a neuroma or arthritic changes in the big toe joint because it places less pressure on the forefoot. However, they may not be good for people with plantar fasciitis or Achilles/posterior tibial tendonitis because a lower heel to toe drop requires more extension in your Achilles, knees and hips.

Transition to a lower or zero drop shoe is critical, and it can take weeks, so before you buy your zero drop shoes, make sure you’re committed to the transition. You should start by wearing your zero drop shoes for a 1-2 miles of your runs and then increase a little each week. If you start to feel soreness in your lower leg or knee, don’t increase the distance at all and think about backing off a little. This is true whether your new to running or a more experienced runner because most people walk around in shoes with a 10-15 mm heel to toe drop.

Research on body weight compared injury rate in runners in the Asics Piranha, 9mm to 4.5 heel to toe drop, and Asics Gel Cumulus, 23 mm to 13 mm heel to toe drop.  The runners who were selected to run in the Pirahna’s did a 26-week transition to the shoes. The results showed runners over 165 lbs (the average for the study group) had an injury rate four times higher than those under 165 lbs. The researchers also looked at the type of weight, so was the higher body weight due to muscle mass or height as compared to someone who is overweight due to the amount of fat they are carrying on their body. The results showed no difference, which lead to the conclusion that it is the weight regardless of where it comes from that is correlated with the higher injury rate.

What does lower injury risk when it comes to heel to toe drop? Running in shoes with different heel to toe drops. This makes your musculoskeletal system adapt and become stronger under different circumstances.

Happy running. Next up is amount of cushion.

 

What’s in a Shoe? Stability.

Everyone’s Feet pronate. Pronation is when your foot rolls inward to distribute the forces of impact as your foot makes contact with the ground. Normally, this is about 15%. The arch of your foot is the biggest factor in your pronation.

There are three basic types of shoes as far as stability goes. A neutral shoe, which allows your foot to move in its natural way; a stability shoe, which gives your foot some assistance to not over pronate; and a motion control shoe, which gives your foot maximal support to not over pronate.

If you go into a running store to purchase your shoes, they are likely to watch you run and walk in bare feet and then with various shoes on. They are trying to determine if you pronate, supinate beyond what’s normal. Their recommendations for shoes typically follow this pattern:

People with normal arches will typically run in either a neutral or stability shoe.

Those with low arches or flat feet typically use a stability or motion control shoe. Flat footed runners typically overpronate meaning their foot rolls in farther than it should toward the big toe. Because of this, a stability shoe is usually a good option. However, if you see that the outside of your shoe’s sole is being worn faster than the rest, you’ve got too much control going on in the shoe and need to switch to something neutral.

Heavier runners (men between 160-180 and women 140-160) who over pronate will likely need more than just the average stability shoe. Look into the motion control shoes to help with the overpronation.

Those with high arches under-pronate (supinate) and so typically do best in a neutral shoe. A little note here: Women have a greater quadricep angle and wear down the outside of their shoes more quickly than men, but it doesn’t mean you supinate.

Over or under pronation can place you at high risk for particular types of injuries. Overpronation causes extra stress and tightness in the muscles. Too much motion in your foot can cause calluses, bunions, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis.

Under pronation (supination) places extra stress on the foot, which could lead to you developing ITband syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar faciitis.

The problem with all of this information is the research doesn’t really support it. It’s all theory. Now, I’m not saying you should throw out your tried and true running shoes and go with something different as far as stability. What the research supports is choosing the amount of stability that you are most comfortable in. This may take some trial and error. You can pull on a pair of shoes and they feel great in the store, but when you take them for a run, they just don’t work. This is why you should always check the return policy of a store before you buy the shoes.

Pronation can change as you become a more experienced runner because the muscles and tendons of your feet and ankles become stronger. When I first began running, I overpronated, then I supinated for a while. When you go to get new shoes, try some different things on. You may find your feet have changed and you’re more comfortable in a different shoe.

The stability of a shoe won’t necessarily impact your ability to run faster either. The issue will be the weight of the shoe. Heavier shoes are going to slow you down. For every 100 g  of shoe weight you can anticipate a 0.8% decrease in speed. The more stability you have in a shoe, the heavier it’s going to be.

The big take away from all this is, the stability of a shoe isn’t going to reduce your injury risk. Go with what is comfortable, but check in every once in a while to make sure your favorite shoe, is still your favorite.

Happy running. Next up is heel to toe drop.

What’s in a Shoe?

Overwhelmed by the shoe choices at your local running store? Well, you’re not alone and if you shop online there are even more options. A common occurrence in the running community is that whenever we have a new ache or pain we blame our shoes. And yes, shoes can contribute to aches and pains, but we like to blame shoes because it’s an easy fix and it means it’s not us.

We don’t like to think it’s our training load, lack of strength, a muscle imbalance or some other thing that will take months to change. We want it to be something easy, so we can get back to running as much as we want as soon as we want.

This desire for shoes to fix our problems and make us the best runner possible has lead me to my next series of posts.  There will be a post on the following shoe features stability, heel to toe drop, and cushion. In each post I’ll cover things like will it reduce the risk of injury? Is it best for a certain type of foot arch, pronation, wide feet, foot strike? Is it best for a specific surface? Is it best for a beginning runner/experienced runner? And will they make me faster?

First, I want to cover some general shoe information. You should replace your shoes every 300-500 miles. The range can change depending on the durability of the shoe itself and on you as a runner, such has how hard you land with each stride. Running on the road will wear your shoes out faster than running on a trail, but the way you run has more of an impact than where you run. As you become a more experienced runner, you’ll know when your shoes are worn out. If you’re new to running, write down when you bought your shoes on the tongue of the shoe or on your training calendar and then after 200 miles go to the running store and run on their treadmill in a new pair of the same shoe you’re running in.

Owning more than one pair of running shoes and alternating between them is a good idea, but the upfront costs sucks. You can buy two pairs of the same shoe and get benefits because it takes about 24 hours for a shoe to fully recover from a run. So, if you run two a days, or you run with less than 24 hours between workouts you’ll have fresh shoes. It’s even better if they are different brands with different features.

If you are a runner you also have to think about what you have on your feet when you’re not running. You may be increasing your risk of injury by wearing unsupportive casual or dress shoes all day long. Replacing your everyday shoes regularly is important too. You can’t be walking/standing around all day in crappy shoes and then expect to stress your feet during a long run and be just fine.

Lacing your shoe up properly also ensures that the shoe is able to function like the manufacture intends. If they are too loose or too tight, they are not doing what you need them to do and they’re not going to work for your feet. If you can slip your foot in and out easily, it’s too loose. If you can pry your shoe off easily with the other foot, it’s too loose. If you feel tingling in your foot, it’s too tight. If the top of your foot gets sore, it could also be too tight.

Buying the right size of running shoe is obviously important for comfort and for functionality. Running shoes should be ½ to one size too big because your feet tend to swell during long runs. Many people have one foot that is longer than the other or a toe on one foot that stretches out further than on the other foot. Make sure you’re getting shoes that fit your longest foot, including its toes. They also need to be wide enough for your toes to splay (spread out) when you land and push off the ground.

If you wear orthotics in your shoes, make sure and take them with you to the running store because it will change they type of shoe you will likely buy. Orthotics or over-the-counter insoles provide support to your arch, a running store may recommend a shoe with more support if they don’t know you put in an orthotic or how much support the orthotic provides.

Happy running. Next up is Stability.

Shoe Swap

running shoes

Do you ever see the new shoe reviews? Of course you do. I’m here to say, “Beware.” The reviews can suck you into thinking your shoes are not right for you or that you can get better ones which will prevent or be the fix all for any nagging injuries you have.

It’s not just the shoe reviews which can prompt a change in shoe. Sometimes you just walk into the running store and there they all are beautifully displayed along the wall.

Our running friends get new shoes and talk about how great they are. You look down at their feet and see the clean and vibrant colors and think, “It’s about time for new shoes, right?”

Every year there are runners who are forced into changing shoes as new models are released and no longer work for us or  have bothersome aspects,  which,  stir up the desire to find something else.

There are a million reasons we decide to change shoe brands or models.  Despite the reason for us changing shoes, there are some precautions runners should take or possible issues they should think about as they make the change.

Make sure you find out about the construction of the shoe and how it is different or similar to what you are currently running in. Running store employees have quite a bit of information in this area. They talk to a lot of runners who give them personal reviews. You can also search for reviews online. Even if you don’t order shoes from online sources, many have review or comments. Also look at the website for the manufacturer. They usually detail the updates and changes from one model to another.

Toe box width, heel to toe drop, arch support, and stability are all important aspects of a shoe you should be asking about. Once you know this info, turn the shoe over in your hand and check out the tread. Is it aggressive enough for where you run? How stiff is the sole of the shoe?

Take the shoe for a test drive. Many running stores will let you run on a treadmill to feel the shoe. This is never enough time for you to really assess the comfort level of the shoe.  And it’s not the ideal conditions unless you run on treadmills for the majority of your running.

Pay attention to how the foot feels in the shoe, is there anything rubbing, does the heel fit well in the heel cup, do your toes have enough space to wiggle, and is the shoe supportive/tight enough in your arch. Make sure there is not a place on your foot where there is more pressure than other places.

There are two good times to go try on shoes: first, after a long run, and second, after you have worked all day. The reason is, your feet swell throughout the day making them bigger at the end of the day. Your feet also swell during running. The point is make sure you have enough room in the toe box.

Many stores also have a 30 day return policy. However, this may be a bit tricky if you’ve run a bunch of miles and the shoes are dirty in any way. Check into the return policy when you are switching brands or models.

My final advice is, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.