Thursday, May 24, 2007

Shoe Revolution

There's a revolution emerging in running shoes. New start ups are leading the way, albeit without many ad dollars, as the well-established shoe makers continue putting out increasingly control-oriented shoes designed to counteract the other problems they build in. The issue is now efficiency--not control or cushioning. The big guys are slow to figure this out.

Efficiency means going faster for the same effort. This is probably the area where triathletes and runners could stand to improve their running the most, yet few do anything about it even though it is relatively easy to make changes given enough time, direction and dedication.

Gone are the days of teaching runners to land on their heels and roll to the forefoot like a rocking chair. That’s simply a way to run slowly while increasing the risk of injury. The emphasis is now on a flatfoot or midfoot strike with body weight transferring to the ball of the foot almost immediately. The big guys don't seem to have figured this out yet. They still want you landing on your heels.

Unfortunately, this transition to a new style of running isn’t free of injury risk either. Those who have been heel runners for a long time have soft tissues in the feet and lower legs which have atrophied from disuse. Changing abruptly to a midfoot strike is likely to aggravate and inflame these weak tissues. It will take some time to adapt. Shoes from innovative manufacturers are now being designed to help you learn to run correctly while reducing your risk of injury and shortening the time necessary to make the change.

Take for example, the Newton Running shoe, designed by a pedorthist-ultrarunner from Boulder. The Newton shoe has four “actuator lugs” under the ball of the foot that promote better use of the forefoot while running. They retail for $155 to $175. Another running shoe in this category is the Velocy. Its design encourages forward lean which is a critical element in running with good technique. Just putting the shoe on and walking around makes you aware that body weight is shifting quickly to the forefoot. These shoes retail for about $125

As always, big companies are slow to respond to changes in the market. There have been exceptions, such as Nike's minimalist Free shoe. But for the most part the major shoe makers just keep adding more gizmos to their shoes to increase their support--which is necessary because they designed a thick-heeled, unstable shoe in the first place. They'll eventually catch up, but it will take a while.


At May 28, 2007 12:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found your very interesting and informative blog. I've only be running 8 months, am still very slow - I'm happy when I can hold a 9:40 pace for 3 miles - but have always naturally landed on my forefoot. I experimented with a heel stike and it just seemed so unnatural and uncomfortable that I quickly gave it up. I was pretty surprised as I learned more about running, that according to Runner's Magazine 80% of runners are heel strikers. I've struggled to find a shoe that helps me run comfortably and doesn't produce injury. I recently got the Nike Free 7.0 which I found to be very comfortable. The first time I put them on I ran a mile on a dirt track and although they worked my calves harder - I think due to all of the extra flexing they allow - and the ground of course felt harder, they were overall very comfortable. I was shocked that Runner's Magazine completely trashed them and said they were only appropriate for walking around the house or striding on grass. Do you think they have a built-in bias against these new types of shoes?


At May 28, 2007 5:35 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Anon--I really can't say if RW has a bias against non-traditional running shoes. But there's no doubt in mund that the running community, in general, has a bias against anything which is different. In that regard runners reminds me a lot of road cyclists. They seemed to be opposed to anything which is new or different. Interestingly, triathletes seem to be just the opposite.

At May 29, 2007 1:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said... always, there will be people there to exploit individuals desire to run/compete faster/better.

unfortunately, these shoes won't make you run faster!

i do agree that running on your forefoot will help your running speed.

the answer is to work on your technique, not buy a new technique. this is something that anyone can accomplish by doing some simple a's and b's

i hope you're getting paid for this joe.

At June 8, 2007 5:47 AM , Blogger Blake Becker said...

I am trying not to post to much these days on the net, but I really had to on this one.. I own a set of Q-rings and Newtons and think of them as tools to help me get more efficient on the bike and run.

The Q-rings re-enforce correct pedaling technique in taking away the ability to mash the pedals.

The Newtons re-enforce correct running technique...something that can be tough to do in the middle of a big week of training when you are tired. I like them for my easy runs the most, because this seems to be when most triathlete's mechanics fall apart.

No real purpose to this post, just sharing how I believe some of the products Joe has mentioned, have helped me...and I don't get paid to use either one ;)

At June 18, 2007 11:03 AM , Blogger Matt Metzgar said...

The heels on these shoes look huge. I'm not sure that shoes can do much to improve efficiency. I would instead focus on minimizing shoes themselves - wearing a shoe with a thin sole and no heel.

At September 25, 2007 12:16 PM , Anonymous Bapes said...

You guys should checkout the shoes that came out from Nike with Ipod applications. Nike and Apple coming together is a perfect combination and if this can motivate a healthier lifestyle than more power to them.

At January 8, 2008 10:21 PM , Anonymous Hid Conversion Kits said...

These shoes are damn ugly I wouldnt buy them for my trained water buffalo


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