There are two types of runners: those who are injured and those who are about to be.

Statistically you have a 50% chance of injury if you lace up your Nikes and head out.

or your Asics.

Or Adidas.


New Balance.

You lace up- odds are 50% you’re getting hurt.

The shoes matter, but not as much as you think.  You can have motion control, dual density posts, ample cushioning and a spring in your heel; your odds of beating injury do not improve.

Want to run barefoot?  50% chance of injury.  100% chance of some jacked up calluses on your feet.

Two types of runners.  Seems we’re all killing time between injuries.

And the way we talk about running shoes is wrong.

Nothing I hear people say about them makes any sense.

We talk about them, review them, rate them, dry them out when they’re wet, patch them when they’re broken, hug them when they’re sad…

If we treated our feet as well as we treat (some of) our shoes you can bet your sweet ass injury rates would drop.

But instead we talk about shoes like they’re the answer.  Why?  Because we all have a story of a pair of shoes that were the magic bullet. Our legs ached/runs were horrible/everything hurt and we switched shoes.  No more pain.  It had to be the new shoes.

Let’s ask better questions.

  • Was it that the new shoes were particularly good or that the old shoes were particularly bad?
  • Can shoes actually affect performance?
  • What about our feet?

We don’t want to talk about our feet.  They’re ugly, smelly, hairy, covered in blisters and callouses and they always hurt.

But how many of us have actually stretched them out, foam rolled them, massaged them?

There’s an old saying: shit rolls down hill.  Our bodies work like that but in reverse.  Shit starts at the feet and rolls uphill.  Why?  because when you run you land on your feet at 3x’s your bodyweight.  But we don’t blame our poor, stiff, neglected feet.  We blame our shoes.  The good thing about shoes is that when we decide to a pair is no longer working we can run right out and grab a new pair.  We get to the running store and say things like:

I need support

We’re designed to run barefoot.  An efficient foot strike starts with touchdown at your mid-foot, a roll into the wide and flexible forefoot where the weight of impact is decelerated by the muscles in your feet and legs.  Next weight is transferred to your forward and you spring forward.  I skipped a few steps but that is the gist of it.

Some of you have an overly flexible foot that moves too much and torques on the ankle and knee.  That’s okay.  These joints are made to be flexible.  They should handle some torque.

If you have ‘flat feet’, ‘collapsing arches’ or have been told you ‘over-pronate’ this means you.  You don’t need more support.

Your foot has evolved over millions of years.

Only in the last few have we been arrogant enough to think we can improve on human evolution with motion control, dual density posts and rigid/flexible lasts.

All this technology and there are still two types of runners.  Whatever your foot is going to do on the ground, it is going to do in the shoe as if it were the ground, regardless of support.

Solution?  Get stronger, more flexible feet by exercising them.  It shouldn’t take too long.  A couple of minutes a day.

Walk barefoot, do standing calf raises, memorize the Running Man’s Drill’s for Bulletproof Feet.  Take care of your feet when they don’t hurt.

Michael Jordan would put his feet into buckets of ice after every game.  Not just when his feet hurt.

Now some of you have rigid feet that don’t allow an efficient deceleration.  Your feet don’t need support, they’re already too stiff as it is.  You land hard, have high arches.  You think:

I need extra cushioning

This sounds perfectly logical, but as with all things running related nothing is what it seems.

Some cushioning in your running sneakers is a good thing.  But there are limits.

I worked in a running store 20 years ago.  Shoes that were under $90 usually didn’t have much forefoot padding.  Over $90 and you had front and rear foot padding.

If you’re under, I’d say, 130 lbs, you don’t really need all the padding.  You’re not heavy enough to dig into it.

If you’re over 130 then knock yourself out, you’ll use the added cushioning.  But there is a point where more padding becomes a liability.

Your brain runs everything in your body.  Remember this.

Your brain talks to your feet.  Your feet are very important because they are providing the brain with tons of important information.  Are you standing on a flat surface or a hill?  A soft surface or a hard one?  A hot surface or a cold one?  Your feet have a lot of information to provide, and thus have a ton of nerve endings.

When you throw on a thick bulky shoe you remove your foot from the ground.  It sends the brain incomplete information, and when that happens your brain slows down.  When the brain is confused everything gets weaker and less flexible, basically saying ‘I don’t have a full picture of what’s going on so I’m not going to let you do anything stupid.’

Don’t believe me?  Look at this video I did with my friend Erica.

She stands on a folded yoga mat (a soft cushion) and gets instantly weaker- in her shoulder.

This is not just limited to where we tested.  Her hips, ankles, glutes etc all get less flexible and weaker.

Same happens to you when you wear a shoe that is too cushioned.

If you’ve grown up without shoes on you have an advantage.  The nerves and muscles in your feet have developed and can handle more load without injury.  But if you’re reading this on a computer then chances are you grew up with shoes on and you’re hopelessly addicted.  You probably shouldn’t switch to running bare foot.

What can you do?  Foot drills.  A strong, flexible foot is better for you than any adiprene, nike air, asics gel or whatever else.

I’m a heel striker

More like a heel walker.

‘But the outside of my heels is worn down on every shoe.’

True.  From walking.

If you’re landing on your heels while running you are over-striding,  You are constantly hurt, and you can’t sneak up on anyone (because you land really heavy and loud).

Running sneakers allow you to land on your heel because they build up the heel pad.  I’m not a fan.

Land on the mid-foot.  Rotate in, decelerate your body.

Don’t smash down on the poor bony heel.

The body has not evolved to pad our heels at all.  Why should our shoes do this?  Are we suddenly smarter than evolution?

If God wanted us to fly he’s (she’d) give us wings, if he (she) wanted us to breath underwater we’d have gills, and if we were meant to run on our heels we wouldn’t have a naked bone with zero padding there.

A runner lands on the mid foot.  Walkers probably should too.

How do you know that you’re landing efficiently?  You’re landing quietly, you’re not feeling dead legs, your stride rate is 90 per minute or above.  Good news!  I teach a running class.  I’m constantly on people’s case to shorten their stride and be more efficient.  I often count when they’re not conscious of it.  The lowest I’ve ever encountered was a guy who ran 85 strides a minute.  Bad… but fixable.

And so are you.  Now run light, run quiet, stay off your heels.  Nothing good happens when you’re caught flat footed… or back on your heels.

I read a good review

Shoe reviews.  I don’t understand them.

Your feet are as individual as your fingerprint.  How a pair of shoes fits you is unique.

Because you’re so unique you should not base your shoe choice on someone else’s opinion.  There is only one opinion that matters.

If I told you that a tight pair of leather pants were great, amazing, the best pants that ever hugged an ass, would you take my word or try them on for yourself?

Try your shoes on.  Take a quick jog in them.

Forget shoe reviews.  Waste of time. 

I have orthotics

I’ve got to admit I’m a little confused about orthotics.  I’ve used them and gotten better.

And I’ve been injured while wearing them.

I would not use them again.  I’d focus on getting my feet stronger and more flexible.  If you’re using them right now think of them as a cast.  You wear a cast until you heal, then you pitch it.  Do the same with your orthotics.  Get well,  and then focus on strength and flexibility.

RANT WARNING: Back when I worked a show store I ‘d often see customers with high arches and rigid feet cramming orthotics.  The ‘problem’ with that foot type is it is too rigid to decelerate the force of impact efficiently.  This foot type lands hard and put a ton of stress on feet, joints, bones because there is no give.  Putting more stuff in your shoe is going to help that?  Why would a Doc recommend that?

Because orthotics cost about $2 to make and are sold for about $200.  Doctors gotta make money too.

Trust no one.

Rant over.

Let’s wrap this up.  Wearing the wrong show can increase your risk of injury, and the right shoe can make you feel better immediately.  Don’t rely on shoes to fix you up.  Here’s a quick test you can perform to see if a shoe fits.

Take care of your feet instead, especially when they’re feeling good.  You’ve only got one pair of those, and they’ve got to last a lifetime.

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