The “great running shoe debate” continues concerning whether or not running barefoot is better for you than running while wearing shoes.
I originally wrote this post back in 2013, and things really haven’t change much in the last 2.5 years.
The research fails to draw any definitive conclusions about the risks of running barefoot as opposed to running while wearing shoes.
However, many have hailed this review as a good starting point to begin taking a more evidenced based approach to answering the question, as opposed to the subjective running shoe debate that continues to be had between the two camps with little progress being made one way or the other.
The Running Shoe Debate in a Nutshell
Barefoot runners continue to tout the company line of “we evolved to run without shoes” and that wearing shoes “changes our gait pattern which increases the risk of chronic running injuries such as stress fractures and shin splints”.
Meanwhile, the shoe crowd is equally set in their ways, with the obvious argument that shoes protect our feet from debris, broken glass, rocks, etc.
And they are also quick to counter the argument of the barefooters, noting that we didn’t evolve running on concrete and asphalt, so our bodies actually need the cushioning that running shoes provide.
So who is right?
Not sure, but as the running shoe debate rages on, hopefully the research will continue and we will eventually have something that resembles a conclusive answer at some point in the not too distant future.
My Take on the Running Shoe Debate
If you’ve been following along for more than a few minutes, you know that I’m not at all a fan of the “traditional running shoe”.
Personally, I think the shoe debate between barefoot runners and shod runners misses the point.
Now to be clear, Altras are not minimalist shoes. They are a fully cushioned shoe (though different models have different amounts of cushion, and I DEFINITELY prefer the minimally cushioned models) without a heel-drop.
Which basically means that I (and perhaps Altra, though I don’t want to put words in their collective mouths) are sitting firmly on the fence of the great running shoe debate.
Is It Possible We Are Missing the Point?
Wrap your head around the following sentence:
The way that you run is more important than what you wear on your feet, though what you wear on your feet can change the way that you run.
Oh Lord. It’s a damn chicken or the egg scenario. Awesome…
Look, if you’re a runner that hasn’t had to deal with shin splints, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, knee pain, hip pain, tendonitis, or any of the other common running injuries, keep doing what you’re doing.
But if you’re dealing with pain and soreness after virtually every run, perhaps you should think about changing something!
I mean, why would you keep running if you’re in pain that is caused by running?
I almost quit running for good because of knee pain and shin splints, but luckily I had read several articles about running mechanics and I decided to try changing my stride to see if it would help at all.
Not only did it help, it pretty much changed my running life completely.
I started to focus on my running form, and made sure that I was no longer over striding and landing on my heel with every step.
Instead, I shortened my stride and landed on the balls of my feet.
It took some getting used to, but after many months and many miles, it became second nature.
At that point, I thought about changing shoes. I had already improved my gait, but sometimes while running the heel on my shoes would scuff and throw off my stride.
So I gave zero drop shoes a try, and the rest has been history.
Perhaps, the question needs less about what shoes are “best” and instead we need to focus more on the role of stride length and biomechanics in relation to injury prevention.
But what do I know.