Last Sunday I sat in a circle with two customers. I hung my head, raised one hand and said in jest, “Hello, my name is Kassandra and I am an over-pronator, and I’m sorry to tell you that so are you.” Being an over-pronator kind of stinks! Let’s be honest- we don’t get any of the fun, light shoes that neutral runners have! No fair!! But before we get into all of the SHOES (shoes glorious shoes!), allow me to explain the different types of shoes…
Check out THIS POST to help you find out if you are a normal pronator, over pronator or supinator. This information is critical in finding the best running shoe for you.
The Minimalist Debate
There is a huge debate in the running community about whether or not standard running shoes are even necessary for runners.
Some runners believe that we as humans were born to run and walk without shoes. Many minimalists believe that running shoes obstruct the natural movement of the foot while running, and THIS is what causes injury. Those who believe in the minimalist movement often wear lighter shoes with less structure and some actually do run completely barefoot. In general minimalists tend to wear shoes with a lower heel to tow drop (the Vibram five fingers pictured above).
On the other hand most people have been walking in shoes since infancy. The muscles in our legs have become accustomed to the foreign objects on our feet that get us from point A to point B, thus causing a dependency on them. Many customers who have tried to go barefoot/minimalist often return to the store with injuries ranging from a pulled Achilles, plantar fasciitis, or pulled calf muscles.
I believe that that the average runner will fair best in a standard running shoe with a higher heel-to-toe drop rather than a light-weight minimalist shoe with a lower heel-to-toe drop. If the body has been trained to walk in a standard shoe since birth, then that is what it will run best in (for now!). However I believe you can retrain your body and the muscles in your legs over time to run in a minimalist shoe.
Three Categories of Shoes
Given this information it is time to discuss the three basic categories of running shoes: neutral, stability and motion control (pictured from top to bottom).
Every shoe company creates a shoe in this category. Runners with a neutral gate strike the ground and toe off without over-pronating, meaning that their ankle does not roll in more than 15%.
Many shoe companies (i.e. Brooks, Saucony, New Balance, Nike and Asics) use their own unique blend of EVA foam to create the midsole of the shoe. The midsole represents the meat of the shoe as it is the layer of foam that cushions the impact of your body’s weight with each stride (the blue and part of yellow strips of foam shown above in the Brooks Ghost). In a neutral shoe there is only one density of foam present in the midsole because the runner evenly distributes his/her weight across the entire base of the shoe on landing through toe off.
These runners have the gait that we are strive for and can wear standard shoes like the Brooks Ghost and Asics Gel-Nimbus, or even get away with lighter shoes with lower heel to toe drops like the Saucony Kinvara or Brooks Pure Flow.
About 80% of runners over-pronate. If a runner rolls her ankle in when running, her body isn’t efficiently absorbing the shock of her body weight, thus risking injury to the shins, knees and even hips.
Shoe companies have responded to this “condition” by creating a dual density midsole (designed to resist pronation) in their stability shoes. Stability shoes can often be identified by a gray bar of dense foam and a piece of plastic posting in the arch of each shoe. When the runner lands the denser foam and plastic posting are designed to prop the foot upright into a neutral stance.
Stability shoes: Brooks Adrenaline, Adidas Supernova Sequence, Saucony Guide, New Balance 860, Asics GT2000, Asics, Gel-Kayano, etc.
Motion Control Shoes
Motion control shoes are crafted for runners with severe over-pronation; these shoes provide maximal support in the arch and midfoot provided typically by a wider surface area on the base of the shoe, as well as a dense foam and large plastic posting pictured below.
The typical runner does not need the significant amount of posting provided by this shoe category. Customers seeking this shoe have typically been instructed by their podiatrist or general doctor to use these shoes as they ease back into exercise when recovering from surgery or individuals with a strong history of knee and ankle injuries who are embarking on a new weight loss endeavor.
Motion control shoes: Brooks Ariel (pictured above)/ Brooks Beast (men’s version), Saucony Omni, Mizuno Wave Renegade, New Balance 1011 etc.
What shoe do you wear??
Do you feel like it provides you enough support?
What shoes have worked well for you?