Shoes come in a million different shapes and sizes and it’s difficult to know which is best for running. We have a basic guide here on the basics of picking the right running shoe, but there are additional things to consider. This post will go into more detail about picking the right shoe cushioning for running.
Do your shoes have too much cushion?
Shoes are often constructed with cushioned materials with the idea that it needs to absorb forces from the ground with every running step. Although cushioning is very important for frequent runners, it can also be a problem. If your shoes do all the work of dampening the impact of the ground, your feet become less effective of absorbing each running step.
When your foot hits the ground, it relies on receptors in your joints and muscles called proprioceptors to instantly figure out what position you should take to support your body. This process happens thousands of times; it occurs with every strike of your foot during a run. The more cushioned the material, the less your body has to rely on these natural receptors to stabilize the structure of your foot.
To give you an exaggerated example, try wrapping a pillow around each of your feet. Then take a jog around the block. The sensory information going to your feet will be highly filtered, it will feel utterly unbalanced and awkward, and not to mention how ridiculous you will look.
Overly cushioned shoes will not be as extreme, but on a much smaller scale a similar effect would take place. Over time your propioceptive ability will not be as developed. What your body does not use, it tends to lose.
What kind of cushioning should you choose?
With all that said, you do not need to go out and run barefoot or with minimal support. Different people have different feet with different needs.
One important thing to consider is running style. Do you heel-first strike, midfoot strike or fore foot strike when running? A runner with a heel-first strike that is not able to midfoot strike should have more cushioned support.
Also, higher cushioned running shoe wearers wanting to transition to a more minimalist shoe should do it slowly to decrease risk of overuse injuries. Running shoe companies now offer shoes with different levels of cushion so that you can make the transition over weeks or months.
When in doubt, a PT can help perform an examination to help you determine the right running shoe for you. Don’t hesitate to let us know if you have questions about it.
If changing your shoe doesn’t provide enough relief for your foot pain, you may want to consider physical therapy at CBPT.
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Isom Allan, PT, DPT
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