I bought my first new pair of shoes at a fancy shoe shop in Florida. I told them I have knee pain when I run. They got me in a pair of stability shoes, had a me run on a treadmill, said I looked good, paid, left, and hooked. For the next 4 years I was in and out of tons of stability shoes and knee braces. The shoe store salesman said I needed stability shoes and I never questioned their logic.
Evolution of my running shoe collection
The picture above depicts my stability to minimal transition. The purple and teal shoe, on the far left side, was my running shoe 7 months ago. The heel is 26 mm off the ground, aka 1 Inch. I ran every step with my heel an inch off the ground, crazy. After reading Ready to Run, I became more aware of the amount of pressure I was putting on my Achilles tendon.
Could this be the cause to some of my shin and calf pain?
Over the next few months I slowly worked my way down into the red and blue shoe, 20 mm drop, and eventually into the black and pink shoe that has a 5 MM drop from heel to toe.
The two shoes on the right side of the picture have become my everyday/ Crossfit shoes. Both are considered neutral/minimal shoe styles.
I was Introduced to Kelly Starrett's Ready to Run book by fellow coaches. This book is a blueprint for runners to develop a better approach to injury-free running. His 12 standards focus on implementing everyday strategies to maximize our running ability. I realized if I really wanted to improve I should include each standard into my running as well as my clients'. Standard #2 brought the biggest change of them all
Standard #2 = Neutral Shoes
"You don’t lift weights with mittens on, or do shoulder exercises with a sling on do you? The same with our feet. You should never try to strengthen them wearing shoes." Dr. Nick Campitelli
I dare you to test out something right now. Take you shoes off and run around the house or outside on the pavement...Go!
What did you notice? Were you landing on your heel or were you landing on the padding on the ball of your feet?
I would safely say you answered on the ball of your feet. By landing on your heel on the pavement you should have instantly felt the pain and correct the next landing.
In the 1970's Running companies invented that thick padding, that you find on the heel of your shoe, to alleviate the pain that runners felt when landing on the heel. You can see on the picture, once the heel hits the ground the force radiates up through the knee and on to the lower back. Over the course of a marathon, think about how much stress that puts on your entire body.
So, Why should we be so concerned about our shoes?
Think of shoes like a crutch. A crutch doesn't fix the broken knee or fracture, the crutch is a short term device to alleviate the pain. Unfortunately it takes more than just changing your shoe to become less prone to injury. It takes time to restructure our feet as well as developing a more efficient stride (that's a whole other post) to run at our most athletic capacity. By walking/standing/moving barefoot more consistently we build up the muscles and tendons around the foundation, creating a stable, functional base for the rest of our body to stand and move upon. For example, If our arches aren't strong and collapse every time we back squat, regardless of how much time we spend building up our leg muscles, the tendons in our feet will eventually stretch to the limit and ankles will collapse in. Our foundation will ultimately fail before we reach our maximal squatting depth.
Some key components on strengthening our feet mimic any other conditioning program starting small first. We must find the form, then gradually add volume and speed. In this instance volume would be time on our feet with speed following later after a few months of initiation. Walk around your house barefoot first. If standing next to the stove look down and ask yourself "are my ankles caving in or are they under my knees?". Next step is to slowly adapt to wearing a more minimal shoe to work.
"The more we use our toes and walk without shoes, the stronger our feet become and the more resistant to injury they become".
Injury, when transitioning to different shoes, usually occurs when we increase in mileage/wear in too little time. The link below does a great job at emphasizing how important it is to strengthen your feet to improve the entire infrastructure encompassing the foot, arch, ankle, and hamstring area.
1) Strengthen your feet- Walk barefoot around your house
Take a glance at this website that did a great job at combining 3 informative videos of how
2) Have patience and start slow
Start by running very short distance intervals, such as 200m or less, just to see how it feels. Then, walk for the same distance. This helps toughen your feet without creating as much impact as running. Switch back and forth between walking and running as your body allows. The 10% increase rule applies here - start with very short runs and add no more than 10% of an increase in mileage (or time on your feet) in one week.
to restructure your feet.
3) Adapt a running stride that focuses on landing on the forefront of your foot.
Again, this is a whole other topic for discussion but this link can you lead you in the right direction. If interested in learning more, contact me and I'll get you running in the right direction in a more efficient style
Suggested Further Reading:
Suggested Minimal Shoes by Dr. Nick Campitelli
Barefoot Running: How to fix and strengthen your feet
Strike Movement is my FAVORITE shoe to wear to my gym as well as for everyday use.
Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett
2 Year Case Study, Orthotics to Minimalism
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I'm passionate about running, fitness, nutrition and all things that make me and everyone else a better version of ourselves.