It’s Not All About the Shoes or at Least Not in the Way You Might Think

I’m dating myself, but several years ago Nike had an ad for Air Jordan shoes featuring Michael Jordan and Spike Lee with the tagline “It’s all about shoes.”  However, just like we can’t be amazing basketball players just by wearing Air Jordan basketball shoes, research has shown that running shoes generally have little or no effect on running performance and injury prevention.  In fact, the design of some current running shoes may increase your risk for injury!

So, at some point you will need to purchase running shoes again, unless of course you are going to run barefoot.  If the shoe model you currently use feels good and you feel no pain, then by all means continue with this same model.  Running shoe companies make this a challenge though, because they are constantly changing shoe models.  Also, the current shoes you are running in may be decreasing your running efficiency and increasing your risk for injury.

Therefore, I wanted to share with you a few things to consider when purchasing your next pair of running shoes. A couple of years ago I posted an article entitled “Runners and Triathletes: Let’s Go Shop Shopping.” Most of the considerations I mentioned in this article still hold true, so please check out this article (

However, I want to update tips numbered 2 and 3 of the list of 16 tips that I gave based on the research on running shoes.  Basically, these tips addressed determining arch type for your foot and the proper shoe based on your arch type.

Research has shown that trying to “classify” a runner’s arch type or height (high arch, neutral arch, flat arch or flat-footed) doesn’t really describe what is happening when you run.  Differences between structural arch heights are muted when running.  Numerous studies have shown that assigning shoes based on arch type doesn’t improve performance or decrease injury.  No matter your arch type, we all need to dissipate shock during pronation (foot turning inward) and actively stabilize during push-off.  This is the responsibility of our body, not the shoe we are running in.  Proprioception and muscles ability to respond and stabilize when we run, especially with one foot on the ground are critical.

Proprioception is the sensory information that allows our body to sense its position and allows us to control our limbs without directly looking at them.  This is important in controlling how we land and stabilize when we run.  Poor proprioception can negatively impact how we use our muscles when we run resulting in overstriding, which increases stress on our body and can make us a less efficient runner.  This sensory information is impacted by the extent to which our foot is in contact with the ground.  The body will respond best when we maximize proprioception.

The better your proprioception and your ability to stabilize your pelvis, hip and ankle joints when you run, the more efficient (and faster) runner you will be, and the better your ability to minimize the risk of injury.  In future articles and videos, I will address how to improve your ability to stabilize, which involves properly engaging the muscles.  In this article I will focus more on how running shoes can affect your proprioception.  Any delay in this proprioception can negatively impact your body’s ability to respond and stabilize, especially since the time that we have one foot on the ground in each stride cycle is so brief (~0.07-0.25 seconds).

Maximum proprioception would occur when we are running barefoot on a firm surface.  If you have run barefoot or watched others run barefoot you may have noticed that you and/or they run differently.  A big part of this is the improved proprioception causes you and/or them to land differently; often softer and closer to the body, which is beneficial, because we will experience less impact on the body and tend not to overstride.  Unfortunately, most of the time we are not running on surfaces which lend itself well to running barefoot.  We need some type of protection on our feet.  Thus, most of us run in running shoes, instead of running barefoot, most or all of the time.

So, how do running shoes affect our proprioception and what can we do to maximize our proprioception if we are running in shoes?

Traditional running shoes evolved to share four basic key features:

Postings – dual-density material that tries to stop motion, think stability and motion control shoes

High heels – heel is about two times as high as the forefoot

Cushioned material – softer surfaces designed to absorb impacts

Narrow toe box – narrow toe boxes supposedly improve fit and control

In a previous article ( I mentioned three of these factors, and that they can be detrimental to running efficiency and potentially increase your risk for injury.


Postings, which are found in stability and motion control shoes, are supposed to help runners who overpronate.  However, maximum pronation actually occurs just after midstance (when we have one foot fully on the ground), after the heel has left the ground.  This means that the posting under the rearfoot that is designed to “stop” the foot from moving isn’t even in contact with the ground, so it’s not able to do what it is supposed to do!  In addition, these postings create some significant issues at midstance, including increasing the stress on the inside of the knee.  This can lead to the development of osteoarthritis.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a pair of motion control shoes.  I began noticing knee pain when I ran in these shoes.  I switched to a shoe with a significantly lower heel (less posting) and the knee pain went away.  For the shoes in which I had experienced knee pain, I measured the difference in sole from the heel to the front of the shoe on the shoe.  This difference was approximately 15mm (1.5 cm or ~3/4 inch)!  Talk about your high heels!  Well, at least for running shoes.  If you are experiencing knee pain and you currently have motion control or stability shoes, you might consider trying a flatter more neutral shoe and see if that reduces or eliminates your knee pain.

High Heels

Another running shoe feature that can have a negative impact on your running and increase your risk for injury is high heels.  Heel may be high because of a posting for a motion control or stability, or it may be due to excess cushioning.  Research suggests that the proprioceptive responses of the foot works best when the foot is flat and that high heels can mute or compromise proprioception.  Fortunately, shoe manufacturers have been offering flatter shoes, most likely due to Chris McDougal’s “Born To Run” and the barefoot/minimalist movement.  This is a good thing, because these flatter shoes increase our proprioception.

Check your current shoes.  Measure the sole at the heel and front of the shoe.  What’s the difference between this?  If this difference is 10 mm or greater, you might consider trying a shoe with approximately a 5-6 mm drop from the heel to front of the shoe.  Running shoes with a high heel mask our foot’s sensation (reduced proprioception) and allow us to land hard on the heel well in front of our body’s center of mass (overstriding).

Something to consider when you are not running:  If you put your foot in a better position throughout the day by wearing flatter shoes, you’ll be better able to maximize the function of your foot.  This will carry over to your running.  Even if you aren’t running in flat shoes, use flatter shoes throughout the rest of the day, as much as possible.


Just as motion control and stability shoes may be inappropriate for those who overpronate, or have flat arches, shoes with a lot of cushioning may be inappropriate for those who supinate (underpronate), or have high arches.  More cushioning results in less proprioception.  This in turn results in less control with our muscles to stabilize us when we have one foot on the ground and can result in overstriding; decreasing our running efficiency and increasing our risk of injury.

Narrow Toe Box

The last running shoe feature that can significantly impact your efficiency and injury risk is the toe box.  Unfortunately, fashion has dictated that we have shoes that taper in the front.  A shoe with a narrow toe box scrunches your foot, and thus can make it more difficult to control your big toe.  Approximately 80-85% of foot support when you run should come from the big toe.  So, your running shoe should have a wide toe box so that you can spread your toes.  This allows your muscles that control the toes to be properly activated, thus you can better control your big toe and increase your stability when you are in midstance.  This will also allow you to better push off with this foot making you a faster runner.

A few additional qualities in a running shoe that would be beneficial include:

– Thin: to provide some protection for the feet, but allow for near maximum proprioception

– Firm: enough in the midsole to optimize proprioception in the foot, but not so much to allow hard landings in the front of the body

– Light: weight matters in regards to efficiency


  • Proprioception is the sensory information that allows our body to sense its position and allows us to control our limbs when we run. This affects our body’s response and along with muscle control affects our stability, which in turn affects our running efficiency and risk for injury
  • Don’t depend on shoes to correct for issues with running form, we’ll discuss how to correct for these in future articles
  • Consider using a firm, flat (6mm drop or less from heel to front of shoe), light shoe that is wide in the toe box
  • Consider using a shoe with little cushioning to maximize your body’s ability to control motion and to effectively respond to changes in conditions while running
  • Running shoes should be about function, not fashion. Adjust your shoe size if your foot grows, such as what can happen with wider toe box shoes as the foot widens


Clinghan, R., et al. “Do You Get Value For Money When You Buy an Expensive Pair of Running Shoes?”  Br J Sports Med. (42): 189-93, 2008.

Dicharry, J.  (2012).  Anatomy for Runners.  New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.

Kurz, MJ, and N. Stergiou. “The Spanning Set Indicates That Variability During the Stance Period of Running Is Affected by Footwear.” Gait Posture. (17): 132-5, 2003.

Nigg, BM, et al. “The Effects of Material Characteristics of Shoe Soles on Muscle Activation and Energy Aspects During Running.” J Biomech. (36): 569-75, 2003.

Ramanathan, AK, Parish EJ, Arnold GP, Drew TS, Wang W, and Abboud RJ.  “The influence of shoe sole’s varying thickness on lower limb muscle activity.” Foot Ankle Surg. (17): 218-23, 2011.

Reinschmidt, C., and BM Nigg. “Influence of Heel Height on Ankle Joint Moments In Running.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. (27): 410-6, 1995.

Richards, CE, PJ Magin, and R. Callister.” Is Your Prescription of Distance Running Shoes Evidence-Based?” Br J Sports Med. (43): 159-62, 2009.

Robbins SE, Waked WE, Allard P, McClaran J, Krouglicof N. “Foot position awareness in younger and older men: the influence of foot wear sole properties.” J Am Ger Soc (45): 61–6, 1997.

Robbins SE, Waked E, McClaran J. Proprioception and stability: foot position awareness as a function of age and footwear. Age Aging (24): 67–72. 1995.

Ryan, MB, et al. “The Effect of Three Different Levels of Footwear Stability on Pain Outcomes In Women Runners: A Randomised Control Trial.” Br J Sports Med, (45): 715-21, 2009.

Sekizawa, K, et al. “Effects of Shoe Sole Thickness on Joint Position Sense.” Gait Posture. (13): 221-8, 2001.

Stacoff, A., X. Kalin, and E. Stussi. “The Effects of Shoes on the Torsion and Rearfoot Motion In Running.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. (23): 482-490, 1991.

Get Ready To Achieve Your Running Goals for 2017!

Hello Runners and Happy New Year!  I hope that you had a great 2016 and are looking forward to an awesome 2017!

Have you thought about what you want to accomplish as a runner in 2017?  Is it improving your fitness and health?  Do you want to improve on your time in a 5k, 10k, half, full marathon, or ultra distance event?  No matter what your goals are, there are things you should consider, and steps you should take to maximize your chance of achieving your running goals in 2017.  In this article I’m going to briefly discuss five steps to take, which can help get you started on your journey to achieving your running goals for 2017.  So, that you can have a smile on your face when you have done so!

Step 1: Have testing and assessments done

Depending on your age, health, and last visit you should meet with your physician to be cleared to participate in vigorous physical activity.  First and foremost, you should make sure that you don’t have current disease, such as heart or pulmonary disease.  You also want to be sure that your thyroid and metabolic system are functioning properly.  Please check out this previous blog that provides more details on what you should have assessed, including vitamin D and certain hormone levels:

I strongly encourage you to have the function of your shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle joints assessed.  A physical therapist or physiotherapist can identify any possible muscle weaknesses/imbalances or flexibility issues that might be negatively impacting your running performance, increase your risk of injury, and potentially keep you from achieving your running goals in 2017.

Also, if you have not done so, I encourage you to have your running form evaluated.  There may be some minor tweaks or adjustments to your running form that may significantly improve your running performance and help minimize the risk of injury.  This can be performed by a biomechanist, exercise physiologist, or running coach.

For example, I have noticed a number of runners who have their shoulders hunched and/or rounded and have their heads forward.  I know a lot of this has to do with the fact that many of us have desk jobs and we spend hour after hour, day after day, hunched over our computers.  If you are training for longer events like half and full marathons running with hunched and rounded shoulders and a forward head will take its toll!  The upper body will fatigue and will cause other areas of the body to have to work harder to compensate.  Thus, these areas will fatigue faster as well.  So, one important aspect of successful running form is keeping your shoulders relaxed.  When you run you should check periodically to make sure they are relaxed.  If not, shake out your shoulders and hands and reposition them so that your shoulders are relaxed.  In a future article, I will discuss other tips that can help you improve your running form. 
Step 2: Assessing Time for Training and Establishing Goals

Before establishing your running goals for 2017, you should consider how much time you will honestly have for training.  You should honestly assess the time for other important commitments in your life, such as family, work and/or school, time with friends, community, other hobbies/interests, and yes, sleep!  After you have determined the amount of time for these, how much time do you have left for training?  You should also consider your current fitness level and amount of time you have been involved with running in developing your goals.

Also, the goals that you develop for yourself should be challenging and a reach, however you should feel that they are attainable, if you dedicated yourself to their achievement.

Now, write down your goals and how it will feel and what impact this will on your life once you have achieved them.  Post your goals somewhere where you can see them every day, such as on your refrigerator (where I put mine), bathroom mirror, etc.

Step 3: Support

Who will your support team be?  I like to think of this on two levels.  First, who will work with you with the commitments you have, so that you have time available for training?  For example, if you have children and need to take them to school, practices, watch them, etc.   Work out a schedule with your significant other and others who can trade off with you, so that you have time available for training.  For work, you may want to discuss having some flexibility in your work schedule with your boss/supervisor and co-workers, so that you can fit in your workouts.

Second, who will hold you accountable or lend an ear when things aren’t going well with your training?  Who is going to hold you accountable so that you get in most, if not all, of your workouts?  Does it help to train with someone like a significant other, friend or friends, local running group or club?  You might consider hiring a coach, who you meet with, or at least speak with on the phone, every week or couple of weeks, to make sure you stay on track to achieve your running goals.

Also, consider who will support you emotionally if your training isn’t going well.

Step 4: Running shoes/attire

Take a look at the soles of your current running shoes.  How worn are they?  At some point this year you will need to purchase new running shoes.  I will post a more complete article on this in the near future.  For now, here are three important factors to consider when purchasing your next pair of running shoes:

  1. Avoid high heels, that is a shoe with a significant drop in height from the heel to the front of the shoe. This negatively impacts proprioceptive responses in the foot (see more on proprioception below).  Instead, use a flatter shoe.  Initially, you may want to try a shoe with approximately a 6 mm drop from the heel to the front of the shoe.  Then, at some point, you may consider transitioning to a shoe that is zero-drop or close to a zero-drop shoe.  You may consider this not only for your running shoes, but also the shoes you wear the rest of the day.  Your feet and body will thank you for it.
  2. Avoid too much cushioning. A big factor in maximizing your running performance while minimizing the risk of injury comes from your body’s ability to respond when you have one foot on the ground.  This is termed proprioception.  The more in contact your foot is with the ground or surface you are running on, the better the proprioception.  The more cushioning you have in your shoes, the worse the proprioception, so your body is not able to respond to changes in running surface and your joint positions as well.  Thus, too much cushioning can negatively impact running performance and may increase your risk of injury.
  3. Get a shoe with a wide toe box, so that you can spread your toes. This will help you better control with your toes.  So much of your stability, when you have one foot on the ground, depends on your big toe being firmly on the ground.  If you are not able to get your big toe firmly on the ground, then you negatively impact your running performance and you increase your risk of injury.  So many shoes out there scrunch the toes and do not serve us.  Squeezing your foot puts the squeeze on your ability to control you’re your foot.  So don’t buy shoes with a narrow toe box.

As for running attire, do not run in cotton.  Cotton will soak up sweat leaving your running clothes heavy and you with the chills.  Instead, go with synthetic blends.  In cold, windy, and rainy weather dress in layers.  I will send a more detailed article on running attire in a future article.  Not enough space in this article to go into more detail here.

Step 5: Have a plan

Last, you should have a plan that will progressively get you to your running goals.  When you wake up each morning you should know what you are doing for a workout that day.  “Winging it” will not effectively get you to your goals.  Your plan should include 3-5 runs per week, depending on your goals, running history, age, and time you have for training.  You should also include cross-training, such as swimming, biking, or even walking at least 1-2 days per week to help you recover from your runs.  Strengthening exercises are a must in your training program, and should be done at least 2 days per week, and in most cases, 3-4 days per week.  Many runners are weak in the core, lower back, hip and pelvic stabilizers, so these muscles need to be strengthened.  I will include more on this in future videos.   Your training plan should also allow for proper recovery, so that your body can adapt to your workouts.  Thus, allowing you to become a stronger and faster runner.

Your run workouts should consist of three components: a warmup, the run itself, and post-run, which may include strengthening exercises, in addition to a cooldown.  The warmup should be dynamic to increase blood flow to and increase the temperature of the muscles you will be using when you run.  I will go into more detail on this in a future training video, however some examples would be rolling shoulders forward and backwards, walking on heels, walking on toes, leg swings side-to-side and forward and back.   No, static stretching, in which you hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds, is not part of an effective warmup.  The cooldown should include foam rolling and/or rolling with a tennis or lacrosse ball, or some other self-myofascial release.  I will discuss this further in future blogs and training videos.


Please share any questions or comments you have by clicking on the contact link at or by emailing me at  I can address these in the next article I send or a future article.

Runners and Triathletes: Let’s Go Shoe Shopping!

I’ve noticed that the past couple of times that I’ve gone out for a run that I experienced some soreness in my knees. There are several potential causes of the knee soreness/pain, which we can experience during and after a run. I will discuss these in a future article. One potential cause is worn shoes, which was the case in my situation. I hadn’t made the time to get a new pair of shoes for the new year. Worn shoes are a common cause of a variety of injuries. There are a number of other factors, which can make us susceptible to injury when we run. These will be discussed my next article.

So, another important step we can take to achieving our running and/or triathlon goals for 2015 is by getting a new, or better yet, multiple pairs of running shoes that are the best fit and most appropriate for us. In this article I will give you some guidelines for buying running shoes. Before you go to a running store to buy your new pair of shoes, there are a few factors to consider. One is the type of surface(s) you will be running on. Will you be mostly on trails or road? Another is your foot arch type (high, normal, flat), which can impact whether you supinate (foot tends to roll outward), pronate normally, or overpronate (foot tends to roll inward). Body weight can also be an important factor to consider for shoe selection.

If you don’t know your arch type you can use the water test to determine this.

Water test:

• Dip your foot in water and then step on a heavy piece of paper or cardboard

• The resulting footprint will shoe the shape of the foot

• If the footprint that is curved, showing mostly the heel and ball of the foot with little in the middle is considered a high arch or supinated foot

• If the footprint shows most of the foot and a moderate curve in the middle, the arch is normal

• If the footprint is wide and full with no arch, this is considered an overpronated, or flat foot

You can also determine if you tend to supinate, pronate normally, or overpronate by looking at the wear patterns on the bottom of your shoes.

Shoe wear patterns:

• Normal pronation is indicated by wear that occurs across the heel and ball of the foot

• Runners who overpronate will see significant wear along the outer heel, ball of the foot, and the inside of the forefoot

• Runners who supinate, or have high arches, will mostly wear on the outer edge of the shoe

Now, it’s time to go shopping!

If possible, I recommend sticking with the same type of shoe that has previously worked well for you. Shoe manufacturers make this a challenge because they are constantly changing their models; usually they change models every 6-8 months! So, there is benefit to buying two pairs of shoes that work for you.

Tips on shopping for running shoes:

1. I recommend shopping at a reputable running store with trained personal to help you.

2. If you haven’t done so before, it can be beneficial to be videotaped while running on a treadmill in a running store, which can help better determine if you pronate normally, overpronate, or supinate.

3. If you overpronate, the shoes that will work best for you are those that have extra stability or even motion control, depending on the extent of overpronation. If you supinate, running shoes that have cushioning and flexibility will be most beneficial. If you have a normal arch then get shoes with neutral stability.

4. The store personal should be measuring both the length and width of your foot.

5. Try on multiple pairs of new shoes, from multiple shoe manufacturers.

6. Try on new shoes with the same sock that you wear when running.

7. If you wear orthotics or inserts be sure to wear them when trying on new shoes.

8. Try on both shoes, but fit the running shoes to the larger foot. Do not assume that the shoe will “break-in” if it feels tight to begin with.

9. Try on shoes at the end of the day when your feet are largest because of swelling. Running shoes may need to be one-half to one size larger than normal shoes. Make a decision based on how the shoe fits, not on shoe size on the box.

10. Make sure that all your toes can wiggle freely, and that there is approximately one thumb’s width between the big toe and the end of the shoe, to avoid blistering.

11. The heel should not slip up and down out of the shoe when walking or running.

12. Keep in mind that the most expensive pair of running shoes is not necessarily the best.

13. Make sure the shoe fits the shape of your foot. It should feel comfortable immediately.

14. Practice running in the shoe while you are at the store, if possible on a treadmill, or better yet, outside.

15. Buy a shoe that is breathable. The shoe’s upper (the part of the shoe above the sole) should be made of fabric such as nylon mesh, which allows airflow.

16. Find out the store’s return policy before leaving, in case these shoes don’t work out.

The life of a shoe depends on the type of shoe, how often the runner is training, and what surfaces he/she runs is running on. In general, it’s recommended that running shoes be replaced every 300-500 miles, or every 6 months. Runners who log more than 50 miles a week and heavier runners may need to replace their running shoes more often. Runners should not wait for the sole of the shoe to show signs of wear; by that time the shoe’s cushioning and shock absorption capabilities have already worn down.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

See you on the road or trail,

Coach Brian