The Shoe Debate Continues, But Are We Missing the Point?

 The “great running shoe debate” continues concerning whether or not running barefoot is better for you than running while wearing shoes.

The Running Shoe Debate Continues

To Shoe, Or Not To Shoe? That is the Question

I originally wrote this post back in 2013, and things really haven’t change much in the last 2.5 years.

review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine does little to help steer the shoe debate one way or the other.

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”.

My love affair with my Altras has been going on for a little over a year now, and I basically refuse to wear any other type of shoes.

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.

First Time Marathoner

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.

What About You? Where Do You Stand on the Omnipresent Shoe Debate? Do You Think Shoe Type Matters More Than Gait, or Vice-Versa?

6 replies
  1. ronaldlwalter
    ronaldlwalter says:

    I think you are dead on. If your form is bad no shoe is going to fix it. I think that’s where both camps are off: They think the right shoe (or lack of shoe) will overcome the form, where I think the right form will overcome the shoe.

  2. stevenburkard
    stevenburkard says:

    I agree with the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality. This is how I came into the minimal style of running; something was broke, and I needed to fix it. My argument is that a minimal shoe (I love the New Balance Minimus Zero) will allow your body to adjust to where it wants to go, not forcing it like a fully cushioned shoe or an orthotic.

    Great post.

  3. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    Steven nailed it. Oh hi, I’m Leslie from Altra reviewing your ambassador application 🙂 I too do not believe a shoe alone can fix bad form, but a wrong shoe sure can make it worse. A shoe without an elevated heel makes it physically more possible to land flat footed which is more likely to bring your foot under hip with knees bent allowing the muscles to absorb impact, like they are designed to do, not joints. I have been an elite triathlete and now ultra runner for 15 years and worked forever to fix my form, but it wasn’t till we started messing around with prototypes 5 years ago that it finally fell into place. The right shoe can really set the body up to correct form and do good things. Thanks for the love affair Denny, we love you too 😉

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      Thanks for checking out my blog and leaving a comment for me Leslie. I’m probably the last person in the world that would be comfortable buying shoes online, but I’m so glad I took a chance with Altra last year. This year of running has been the best ever for me, and while it obviously has to do with me being in the best shape ever, a lot of that has to do with running more anatomically correct and wearing a shoe that makes that easy to do.

      I’ve downed a few cups of the Kool-Aid yall have made, and I have no plans of stopping! Love the shoes, love the attitude of the company, and the interactions via twitter, here, facebook, etc. Yall have a great day, and stay warm! Or just come visit me in FL and thaw out a little bit!


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