Footwear is one of the most misunderstood exercise-related topics. And with the wide variety of training shoes out there, it’s no wonder it’s so misunderstood.
The style that most people choose for their workouts is usually the thickly-cushioned running shoe.
Over the past few decades, footwear manufacturers (such as Nike and Reebok) have designed a number of shoes that were advertised to “protect” the body from the excessive impact of running. They were designed more and more cushioned and over-built as the years have gone by, and the “fat-soled” running shoe is now the defacto footwear for many folks.
First, runners were the ones to adopt this style (as it was originally designed for and marketed to runners).
Then, many non-runners began to wear the running shoe at the advice of other training partners, coaches, and even doctors and physical therapists. Because if these shoes are so good at minimizing running impact, they could minimize impact during workouts, right?
Nowadays, you’ll see many kids and adults wearing these big shoes while out walking, at work, at school, when going to the mall …
Little do these people know, the heavily-cushioned shoes that they expect will keep them injury-free are actually making them more susceptible to injury.
In reality, minimalist athletic shoes that resemble racing flats are a better choice for working out. Some example include New Balance Minimus, Nike Free, and most Inov-8 brand shoes.
Here are 3 reasons why minimalist shoes are superior for training (and how running shoes fail at these aspects and only raise your risk for injury.)
1. Effective Transfer of Force
When you lift weights, run, jump, swing, throw, etc., you are using your feet to transfer force between the ground and your body.
Anything that disturbs this transfer of force only diminishes the efficiency of the movement.
Take running on the beach for example. Notice how much more difficult it feels and more slowly you move in the sand, compared to running on pavement?
This is because the sand is a soft, deformable surface, whereas pavement is hard.
Super-cushioned and bulky running shoes are like strapping bags of sand to the bottom of your feet. They create instability and cause energy to be wasted.
On the other hand, minimalist, thinly-soled shoes do not provide this instability. The only thing that comes between your feet and the ground is a thin piece of incompressible rubber.
2. Foot/Ankle Development
It’s no lie that the typical running shoe absorbs impact and “protects” the lower body from impact.
Unfortunately, they only serve as a short-term solution for a problem that should be handled by your feet and ankles.
A natural running gait involves landing on the forefoot, rolling back to the heel, the lifting off from the forefoot again. This forces the foot and ankle to transfer the force to the calf muscle, which then absorbs a portion of the impact from running.
Whereas with cushioned running shoes, the foot lands heel-first then lifts off from the forefoot, causing the bones and joints of the leg to absorb the impact instead.
Even with other types of training, overbuilt running shoes “shield” the foot and ankle from most stress, leaving them underdeveloped and susceptible to injury.
With minimalist running shoes, your body is forced to not only run in a more natural manner, but your feet and ankles adapt to this extra workload.
Have you ever seen a video of a dog wearing shoes, unable to walk around properly?
When you wear super thick shoes, you’re only doing the same thing to yourself.
Sure, we’re all used to moving around with shoes covering our feet, but the reality is that our feet provide feedback and awareness to our brains that allow us to move more accurately and with more confidence.
Anything that comes between your feet and the ground only masks the sensations your body uses to decide how to move.
Why make it more difficult for ourselves than we have to? A minimalist shoe provides the same level of warmth, cleanliness, and protection from cuts and scrapes that thick running shoes provide, but without as much “padding” that makes ruins your body’s awareness and coordination.
With proper education, you can make better decisions when it comes to exercise and training (just as you probably now can with shoes).
No matter if you’re an athlete looking to improve at a sport or an adult looking to lose some fat, it’s important that you have the right education before embarking on a training program.
Professional coaching and program design can help you properly achieve your goals if you’re not sure how to get started.
At GameChanger, we provide coaching and programs for everyone ranging from young athletes to busy moms and dads.
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