Throw Away Your Running Shoes

By Josh Dempsey 

I want to let you in on a dirty little secret of the footwear industry- modern high- tech, air bubble, super cushioned, shock absorbing running shoes and cross trainers cause injuries, not prevent them. Wearing big padded sneakers causes the muscles and connective tissue of the foot to atrophy and lose their responsiveness. The most responsive, high-tech shoes ever created are your feet. We are meant to run on the balls of our feet, which allow the foot to act as a natural shock absorber. The large heels of today’s running shoes make running on the ball of the foot all but impossible, causing us to heel strike when we run, placing a great deal of torque and stress on our lower body joints. This is the equivalent of driving your car with the emergency brake on, except when your brakes wear out you’re looking at osteoarthritis in your knees, patella- femoral issues, potential knee and/or hip replacement, low back pain, and the list goes on.  

Now, don’t take this as a recommendation to become a modern day hobbit. Rather, consider this a request to embrace the minimalist shoe, such as the ones suggested below. You will attain many of the benefits of going barefoot, while protecting your feet from the hazards of the concrete jungle*. 

Here's the best options- 

Here’s what I want you to try - wear these as your everyday sneakers, as well as at the gym. Occasionally try working out barefoot when indoors. Those sore muscles on the back of your lower leg? That's your gastrocnemius and soleus. They are going to be sore, and you’re going to sit on the floor, prop your leg on top of a lacrosse ball, and roll around on it until they feel better. The other key area to work is the sole of your foot itself. Using light pressure to start, stand on a tennis, lacrosse, or golf ball under one foot and work on loosening up any tension or stiffness you may feel in your arches or anywhere else you feel discomfort. Try to spend a few minutes on each foot, and work on both your calves and feet regularly (i.e. daily) until things start consistently feeling better. 

You can thank me later when you discover the newfound proprioception in your feet, strength in your arches, tendons, and ligaments, and a reduction in joint pain when running. 
If you want to learn more about the rationale behind these recommendations, check out Born to Run, and Barefoot in Boston. 

*Disclaimer – If you have a history of lower leg stress fractures, plantar-fasciitis, or extremely high arches, it is probably best to avoid going barefoot entirely, and you should also take a very gradual approach to adopting minimalist footwear options., especially if you’re using them for CrossFit or Running in particular