Standard #2 is all about addressing the number one accessory every runner obsesses over: shoes.
Surely-unless you have just discovered the internet and modern civilization-you have heard whispers of this species of athletic shoes termed "minimalist footwear". This category of shoe offers several unique features: a wider toe box instead of the tapered shape of many classic athletic shoes; a lack of extra heel cushioning to the degree that the heel of the shoe is level with the front of the shoe; and zero arch support. The main function of a minimalist shoe is to allow a foot to act like a foot. If you have read part 1 of our series, you should now be familiar with the importance of your feet functioning as they were designed to.
There's a debate as to whether minimalist footwear vs. a stability shoe is a better choice for you. Here's something to consider:
The null hypothesis for the natural state of your feet states that the normal condition in which your feet function best is without shoes. In order for you to refute this hypothesis, please forward me the research that demonstrates an improvement in your running performance when you put on those $150 running shoes. Can't find it? O.K., send me the research that selecting the right running shoe makes you less likely to get injured running. Can't find it? So why are you wasting your money on those shoes?
Before you go and open a new tab in your web browser to order yourself a new pair of minimalist running shoes, slow your scroll, cowboy. The only thing more certain than death and taxes is that you will injure yourself if you transition to minimal footwear the day you get your mitts on those new kicks. You need supervision. This isn't difficult but it does take a measure of daily consistency and a healthy dose of discipline. The outline below is our best recommendation, based on our work with numerous runners who have transitioned to minimalist shoes, on how to do it without breaking your feet.
If you're wondering how you go about finding a quality, minimalist shoe, here's a short primer on how to do it right:
It's going to take a minimum of two months for you to get used to walking around barefoot and in "zero-drop" shoes. It may take longer. Don't rush to start running any sooner than 2 months after you start making the transition to restoring your feet.
A Word About Flip-Flops
Take your shoes and socks off, stand up, and look down at your toes. Lift your toes off the ground and notice how your arch lifts up. In physical therapy-land we call this "The Windlass Effect". In essence, your big toe acts like a crank to wind up your plantar fascia and create a stable arch. This is an essential action of the foot, as the Windlass Effect helps support the foot's arch, decreases joint compression in the foot, decreases sheering load through foot ligaments, and absorbs forces created by running and jumping.
Want to turn all that good foot function off? Slip on a pair of flip-flops and start walking. Notice now how your big toe has to flex down to hold the flip-flop on your foot. Congratulations, you are now creating acute artificial foot stiffness that, if prolonged, will most surely lead to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and shin splints.
If you're in the locker room shower and need a pair of flip-flops to avoid foot fungus, go for it. But if you're a serious runner who wants to run a long time and avoid injury, flip flops are not your friends.
Had enough of feet, shoes, and lectures about how everything you thought you knew about taking care of your feet is wrong? Good! Get ready for Standard #3, coming next week.
And in the meantime, if you've struggled to figure out how to run pain-free, don't lose another day of your training! Give us a shout via a message here or via our phone or e-mail contact info listed below! Let's work together to solve your running problems once and for all and make you an invincible runner!