The Barefoot and Minimalist Running Shoe Debate

As well as anecdotal evidence, research conducted on running shoes has also been put forward as basis for promoting barefoot running. One instrumental article written by Daniel Liberman, a biologist at Harvard University, highlighted rear foot strike patterns as the main influence in running injuries and linked this to cushioned shoes. However, the article makes a number of bold statements that simply cannot be substantiated.

The reality is that more and more marathon runners are wearing lightweight shoes without cushioning but many do still heel strike. In fact, despite the move to lightweight running shoes there has not been a significant drop in overall injury rates over the years. Other research in this area is extremely limited and needs to be done on a much larger scale in order to determine conclusively which type of footwear is best for which foot type.
So you are most likely thinking that rather than clarifying the issue all of this information makes the matter of selecting the right running shoes even more confusing. However, here is some helpful advice to help when shopping for running shoes.

1. Shoe fit
Podiatrists often treat patients with toenail injuries and blisters from wearing shoes that are too big or too small. Shoe brands will differ when it comes to size so always get measured in the shop. A good sales assistant will know which brands come up smaller or have more room. Make sure the shoe heel feels comfortable and snug with a little room for movement. The shoe should be a little wider than your foot.

One way to test width is to take out the insole inside the shoe and stand on it. If your foot spills over the edge of the insole the shoe is too small. When it comes to length, the shoe should be a thumb’s width longer than your longest toe. This will give your feet room when they swell. Your running shoes should feel comfortable in the shop and should not rub. Just remember, any discomfort you feel will be magnified when you are running.

2. Arch Support and Cushioning
Running shoe makers design arch support for different foot types. Knowing your foot type is important when buying running shoes. Generally, a high arch foot requires cushioning and a low arch foot requires support. There are people out there who are of the opinion that arch support weakens the foot but there is no evidence to support this theory. A good running shoe shop will have a treadmill and I would recommend trying any potential purchase on this before buying it.

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