When you think of your running shoes, what comes to mind? Are they the only pair of shoes you can ever run in? Do you feel like you could never switch to another pair? Do you rely on them to prevent injury? Or are they more of a comfortable tool and protective "surface" to run on instead of running barefoot?
This last perspective is how I prefer to think of running shoes and what I recommend to those seeking my services and advice. No matter what shoes work for you, I like to think of it as running on top of your shoes and just using the shoes essentially as a protective piece of gear for your feet. This is different than shoe choice which is its own topic for another time. Regardless of what shoes work for you, how you think of them could influence performance and injury.
Based on the premise that running is a normal and expected human activity, it is fair to assume that the physical requirements for running are built into our system and not reliant upon external aids like running shoes. For the vast majority of us, there should be a confidence that the fundamental and necessary skill set resides within us before lacing up. This touches on the idea that running is a skill that needs to be practiced, which is a topic I discuss here. Mastering and practicing your skill is a better way to set yourself up for success rather than counting on your shoes to make up for any limitations.
This is especially true when you think about the construction of shoes anyway. If you are able to twist/compress/stretch your shoes just with your hands, think about what happens every step when you land on the ground. There is 1.5-3x your body weight stressing that shoe every step just on flat ground so the expectation that shoes can change or improve upon the movement patterns and biomechanics required to run is a bold expectation. Do they influence movement? Absolutely. But enough to change flaws in the system? That's asking a lot.
So depending on how you think about and what you expect from your running shoes has the potential to lead you down different paths. On one hand, reliance on your shoes could result in you trying to solve problems that may be addressed in better, more effective ways. You might be barking up the wrong tree counting on shoes to be the answer which could leave you with more injuries and shortchanging your performance. (It could also be an expensive proposition if you feel the need to change your shoes frequently or are trying to find the "perfect" shoe.) On the other hand, it can be very liberating thinking of your shoes as a protective surface that you run on top of. You can be more critical and thoughtful in your training allowing you to work out any kinks in your system first so that the shoes you have on isn't as big of a deal. That way, you can have the confidence in your running ability and your shoes help you reach your goals but aren't the reason you reach your goals.
Knowledge = Power; Share The Power:
Dr. Greg Cecere
Your personal physical therapist, movement educator and knowledge dispenser.
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The contents of this blog is meant for educational purposes only. Momentum Physical Therapy of New Paltz and Dr. Greg Cecere are not responsible for any harm or injury that may occur due to any information on this blog as it is by no means a substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional.