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Could Sport Shoes be Hindering your Fitness?

Dr. Foot Solutions - Thursday, August 16, 2012

Traditionally the last event of the athletics calendar at the Olympic Games, the Men's Marathon is not only one of the premier races in the program but also a true test of endurance as well as physical and mental strength.


And as the lead bunch began to form during the 42km race route, I could not help but notice these runners were wearing racing flats.


There is a reason why Olympic Marathon medallists wear “unstructured” shoes. Structured features can interfere with correct movement patterns and foot placement, and can potentially cause you more harm than good. Serious runners know this and there is much research to support this view.


Yet, the majority of sport shoes sold to the public have “structured” features, and major sport shoe brands have only started to promote minimalist shoes in the last few years. Their own research shows that allowing a foot to function “naturally” is the way to go. Having an elevated heel can be harmful for the wearer.


One of the major sport shoe brand has finally confirmed that “heel height” (“drop” or “ramp height”) of the shoe is important for correct foot function, walking and running technique.


Congratulations to New Balance, in their May 2012 newsletter (Pg.10-11), they have listed two specifications— heel height and weight on six models, profiling different shoe categories. These models start at a ramp height of 12mm, then 8mm, 4mm and the latest at 0mm. However, this information is not listed in sports stores; let alone what it could mean for the wearer.


If New Balance is emphasising heel height and weight, it shows the importance they rightly attach to this. Yet, in the extensive ASICS July 2012 catalogue, they list everything from the range of colours to who they recommend the models for, but not a mention of heel height.


So, how the wearer find out its relevance to them? And whether it might influence their clinical problems, whether arthritis, muscle injuries, balance or posture problems, or poor gait technique patterns?


Unfortunately I don’t think most health professionals know and shoe store staff understand that people could be injured due to their “advice”, because they themselves do not recognise the potential negative effects of elevated and structured shoes.


This is probably because these sports shoe companies either do not understand the effects or do not want to admit the shoes they have designed with elevated heels have been contributing to many wearers becoming “walking wounded” or “running injured”. Sports shoe knowledge is disseminated by the companies and their information is biased. After all, how can these companies sell a product if its features are implicated in injury rate and therefore may hinder wearers from getting fit, which is their very purpose in buying the shoes!


For more information on this topic, please visit internationally renowned specialist and physiotherapist in running injuries, Blaise Dubois’ blog here

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