The Myth of Over-Pronation

by Chris McClung

For over 30 years, the running shoe industry has put you in shoes based almost exclusively on one single variable – pronation. We are here to say that the industry’s concept of pronation, the need to correct it, and therefore shoe fitting is utterly and completely wrong. Further, the resulting technologies, such as the “post,” designed to “correct” this mythical, biomechanical fault of over-pronation are unnatural, inefficient, and likely the cause of more issues than they were designed to fix.

In fact, there is no such thing as over-pronation.

There, I said it.

Pause. Breathe. [Duck].

Since some of you might be reacting as people did when Nietzsche declared, “God is dead,” I’ll take a minute while you compose yourself, change your pants, or unfurl yourself from the fetal position clutching your Runner’s World shoe guide.

First, a few disclaimers:

1. I am not a scientist and this is not intended to be a science paper. This is just a conversation starter designed to promote discussion and encourage change in the industry’s concept of fitting so that you end up happier in your shoes and therefore happier with your running.

2. We are still learning too. Even though the degree of pronation has only been a small part of our fitting philosophy, the term “over-pronation” has been and still is embedded in our vernacular. With this blog, we are taking a stand against the use of the word and making a shift in our philosophy. This updated perspective has been honed through the input of scientific studies and with the experience of collectively fitting thousands of runners in our store over the last 5+ years. Many of these runners also train with us, providing a feedback loop and level of accountability for perfecting the fit that few stores have. This is just the tip of the iceberg on this discussion, and I am happy to discuss further with anyone interested. My email is at the end of this blog. In addition, we are “putting our money where our mouth is” with the Rogue Shoe Challenge, discussed below.

But first, let’s back up.

What is pronation?

Pronation is essentially the rolling inward of the foot as it comes into contact with the ground through each step. Most runners (or about 98% of you) pronate, generally landing on the outside of the heel as the foot contacts the ground and then rolling inward from the heel strike to toe off. The other 2% of runners supinate, rolling from the inside/out instead of outside/in. Those of us who pronate all pronate to different degrees depending on how the feet, ankles and legs work together. Beyond the mechanics of it, pronation is simply the body’s way of dissipating the forces associated with each foot strike. Without pronation, which spreads the load of ground contact over many milliseconds (instead of one) and over more muscles and tendons and bones, you would likely break your ankle when you hit the ground with one an intense thud.

f132425For those not familiar with the term pronation, you might be familiar with terms related to shoes and pronation such as “motion control”, “stability,” and “neutral cushioned.” The terms motion control and stability are typically associated with the word “over-pronation” or a foot that is supposedly pronating too much and needs correction. According to the running shoe industry, “over-pronation” is a biomechanical affliction evident when the foot/ankle rolls inward past the vertical line created by your leg when standing.

Most of us have seen such “over-pronation” in action, likely played back to us in slow-motion after running on a fancy, camera-equipped treadmill at your local running store or marathon expo. When we see it, we tend to cringe because we love symmetry, and we can’t help but want to correct or align anything that’s not symmetric. And, in this case, because we also love and are enamored by technology, often at the expense of validity.

But, there are two problems here:

1. The term “over-pronating” implies that there is a standard line over which “normal” pronation becomes “over.” But, who created that standard? If you look, you won’t find an answer. I submit that the line was created in the 1970s by our need for visual symmetry and by what has become millions of marketing dollars spent to sell you shoes, not by any true scientific definition of how the foot and ankle should work. What if those who pronate more than average have a greater need for force dissipation than others, a need that shouldn’t be hindered but rather facilitated? What if there is nothing to correct at all?

2. There is no scientific link to so-called “over-pronation” and injury. You can find studies like this one or even this one from a running shoe company itself that dispel the myth that “over-pronation” causes injury. As a coach, I deal with injured runners daily, none of whom have had injuries caused by pronating too much. In fact, I challenge anyone to name one single injury caused by this “dreaded” affliction. Not Plantar Fasciitis… that’s caused by tight or weak lower legs/calves. Not Runner’s Knee…. weak hips/ankles. Not shin splits… overuse or tight/weak shins/calves. Not IT band syndrome… instability/weakness in the hips and core. And the list could go on. In fact, as this article from Running Times points out, most of the issues that keep you from running start well above the feet.

Now many of you might say “But Chris, if it wasn’t for my trusted, high stability Brooks Adrenalines, I wouldn’t be able to run.” That might be true. I submit, however, that one of two things is possible in your case. Either a) you are responding favorably to something in the shoe, such as it’s relatively stiffness, that has nothing to do with the “post” or the perceived correction of “over-pronation;” or, b) you would actually be happier in something else and just don’t know it.

Gayle-BarronSo, if there is no such thing as over-pronation and if excessive pronation doesn’t cause injury, then how did we get here? One word: marketing. In marketing, you simplify the world to tell a story, a story that is easy to understand and that ultimately sells the product you want to sell – lots of it. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, when running shoes were becoming a thing during the jogging boom, the shoe companies latched on to this singular variable because it was easy to understand, easy to develop a fitting philosophy around, and ultimately easy to sell. Then, an assault on “over-pronation” began as if it was an epidemic. Shoes were developed around it, the gloriously hard and dense foam “post” was invented to correct it, running stores were opened to preach it, and you were educated about it with everything from articles in Runner’s World to fun at-home wet-foot tests.

Now, I am embarrassed to say that you/I/we have been sold a truckload of bulls**t. I am embarrassed because I am the co-owner of a running store and am proud of the expertise that we provide. And, even though our fitting philosophy is different and our long-established ten commandments of shoe fitting mention nothing about pronation, our credibility is tied to the credibility of our peers and the shoe companies that work with us.

“Over-pronation” is not a thing and correcting it does more harm that good, inhibiting natural motion instead of facilitating it, like putting your foot into a cast with a brick underneath it. There are so many other variables that are important in shoe fitting – the relative flexibility/stiffness of the shoe, the cushioning, the weight, how it fits/feels, the way the upper hugs your foot, or the relative heel to toe differential (aka “drop”). I don’t even like to call it “shoe fitting” because that makes it about the shoe. It’s really about making your feet happy and allowing them, with your body, to move in a natural and efficient way so that you run free and effortlessly.

THE CHALLENGE

So, humbly, we take a stand for change by declaring, “over-pronation is dead” and by issuing a challenge to you. For anyone currently running in the chains of a posted shoe (see list below), we challenge you to let us fit you in a new, neutral shoe without the so-called correction.

If you aren’t happier and injury free with the new pair after 30 days (even if you run them ragged), come in for a full refund or exchange with no questions asked. And, on top of that, if you aren’t happy, we will throw in a $25 gift card to spend on anything else in the store as our way of putting our money where my mouth is. Take the Rogue Shoe Challenge. We dare you to be happier on your feet!

This challenge will run through June 30 at both Rogue Running locations. The shoes eligible for the challenge include:

Asics GT-2000

Asics Kayano

Asics DS-Trainer

Brooks Adrenaline

Brooks Transcend (sorry Brooks, but those “guiderails” are just a 360 degree post)

Brooks Ravenna

Brooks Beast

Saucony Guide

Saucony Hurricane

Saucony Omni

Nike Structure Triax

Nike Lunar Eclipse

Adidas Sequence

Adidas Salvation

New Balance 860

New Balance 1260

Mizuno Wave Nirvana

Mizuno Wave Alchemy

———————-

BREAKING!
Dr. Spears and Sports Performance International (SPI), Austin Fit Magazine’s #1 Sports Doctor of 2013, are now putting their money and reputation on the line with us in the Rogue Shoe Challenge. For those who might be wary of injury, SPI is confident in our shoe fitting perspective and is now guaranteeing the challenge as well. If you get injured while attempting the Rogue Shoe Challenge, SPI will provide you with FREE injury consultation and physical therapy to resolve the issue. So, you are now officially out of excuses to drop the “post” and liberate your feet!
Here is the fine print for those who also want the injury guarantee:
- You must be fitted during the weekly injury clinic with Dr. Spears at Rogue DT (Wednesday from 4-6 pm) so that we can collaborate with him on any special issues to address with the fitting.
- You must check-in with us at the first sign of an issue, so that we can proactively manage it.
- The injury must clearly be tied to the change in shoes. For example, any injury gained from otherwise ill-advised moves like doubling your mileage from one week to the next or doing some fancy parkour trick off the Pfluger bridge is on you!

—————–

Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.46.38 PMChris McClung heads up all things retail at Rogue Running, and currently coaches The Morning Show, a group for half marathoners and marathoners alike. He can be reached at chris@roguerunning.com.

 

 

 

 

 

About these ads

40 thoughts on “The Myth of Over-Pronation

  1. So “over-pronation” is bogus thus any type of “posted” shoe is wrong. In your opinion the overriding factor is how the shoe feels on the foot and performs underfoot and “neutral” shoes are the only type of shoe that can deliver this. So, what if the runner feels most comfortable and most natural running in “the chains of a posted shoe?” The massive success of shoes like the Brooks Adrenaline, Asics GT 2000, and the Saucony Guide are a testament to fit, ride, and a sense of natural balanced motion for a large number of people. Is this high level of customer satisfaction (i.e. comfortable, injury free running) simply brainwashing due to “marketing” gimmicks? I don’t think so. Ok, let’s go with excessive pronation doesn’t contribute to running related injuries, I’m one to believe there is a correlation is some people, can’t a “posted” shoe not balance or support a runners foot strike in a way that positively influences the weaknesses in a runners biomechanics (weak hips, tight calves etc.)? As someone who has run in more shoes than I could ever remember and has several nagging structural deficiencies, I do benefit from a moderate amount of support in my running footwear as many years and miles of experimentation have proven. To totally dismiss supportive footwear (guidance, stability, motion control) and take a one size fits all approach, neutral shoes today, tomorrow, and forever, is too footwear centric and not focused enough on the needs of the individual runner.

    • I appreciate the comment. If you live in Austin, you might have fun with our challenge! One clarification: the shoe industry invented those 3 categories: motion control, stability and neutral based on this concept of correcting pronation. I actually believe that this is a gross over-simplification. It is much more complicated than that. Perhaps, it is better to say that our challenge is focused on non-posted shoes of which there are many, many variables that differentiate one shoe from the other, allowing you to tailor the fit to the individual runner. I listed those above – relative firmness or flexibility of the shoe, relative cushioning, weight, heel-toe drop, upper fit, etc. So, what we are talking about is not even close to one-size-fits-all if you consider all of those variables within the fit (even within the so-called “neutral” category.

      And, in terms of the success of shoe like the Adrenaline, etc. I never said that it wasn’t possible to be comfortable in a shoe like that. I just believe that I could make you happier running in something else and would love to try if you stop in!

  2. Good read Chris. I would offer a couple side points in my experience with running mechanics. Firstly, I agree with a lot of what you have to say about the “over-diagnosis”, so to speak, of over-pronation and therefore, medial posting in the shoe.

    That said, I have found extreme cases of over-pronation to be a lack of structural integrity in the foot’s arch. This “collapsing effect” due to the weakness, or sometimes a structural abnormality, as well as flat feet, can cause a buckling of the knee, allowing it to fall inward during weight bearing. This causes obvious problems up the kinetic chain. Core and hip strength can potentially help in keeping the knee from falling inward to a point, but that’s theoretical, I haven’t had hands on success using core/hip strengthening on its own. The reason I find that such a large percentage of runners are over-pronating, is the “over-stride epidemic”, or use of a walking gait while running. When the foot lands in front of the center of mass, it increases the contact time, increasing the time the body has to work to find stability. If the heel comes into contact first, by design, the ankle is a “loose adapter”, meaning the ankle isn’t locked the same way as when we assume an athletic position. The loose adapter allows us to feel the changes in the ground as we walk, and supinate or pronate as needed to adjust to the changes underfoot. In the walking gait, the body is not prepared for high speeds or impacts. This is why there is a clear distinction in human mechanics between the walking gait and the running gait. Humans have a completely different set of mechanical operations that allow us to haul ass!

    So my point is this, on the presumption that the very act of running is by nature an athletic task, if you get the runner into an athletic posture, on the balls of the feet during landing and takeoff, there is no loose adapter, the ankle is locked and the foot operates as a spring mechanism, storing and returning energy (ie: elastic recoil), along with the entire leg and body. In 99% of runners that I put through form clinics, this simply “happens” on its own when I take them out of their shoes and have them run on a hard surface.

    I know this is a lot to take in for people, and I will have lost some already, but the gospel, from my perspective, is: body position. Get the body into the position it needs to be in for an inherently explosive activity like running. Not enough runners consider it to be an explosive activity, as they may not be very fast. A “laziness of mind” is what follows as the runner isn’t preparing their self for the appropriate attention and proprioceptive awareness that is necessary to tackle the task of effective, safe running mechanics. Too many people want a quick, easy fix and would rather be reactive than proactive when it comes to injury. The long and short is that a mechanics “education” is what your 98% of pronators need. The posting will help some, but it is a “cast”, not a fix, and neutral shoe won’t help on its own either.

    We all see people everyday, landing with a locked-out knee, over-extended in front of their body, landing hard on the heel, bracing and wincing with the impact and wondering “Why haven’t these Vibrams fixed my running? My knees and lower back still hurt!” Surprised? Nope. Luckily humans have lifelong brain plasticity, allowing us to learn new things until the day we die, including movement patterns and gross motor skills… We just have to teach them how. My own study in mechanics brought me from a plateau of multiple 2:42 marathons, down to 2:23 and still getting faster. There are no accidents, just how much one is willing to learn and apply… Let’s see how many runners we can make better!

    Love the conversation Chris, thanks for posting!

    Blue

    • Love it Blue! Thanks for contributing to the discussion. And, I completely agree with you that the body (strength, position and form) is more important in the overall equation. Nirvana is reached when the shoe gets completely “out of the way” and lets the body do its work!

  3. So., as a person with bunions, I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Did you talk to a podiatrist before making this statement implying this condition is mythical: “this mythical, biomechanical fault of over-pronation” ??
    I say to anyone reading this, two things: running shoes being the least of your worries, overpronation can absolutely be a problem (and I have proof in the form of huge bone growths) and 2nd: please don’t mistake this for expert foot advice; some of us need the stability. Research it on your own before ditching your stability shoe.

    No offense. I buy my running shoes at rogue. The stabilization kind. You know, the type that makes running possible for me, at all. The kind that are only mythically necessary… ;)

    • Tasha: Thanks for the comment and thanks for being a customer. I welcome the debate and hope you will drop in to discuss with me. I would love to engage you further on this topic to discuss your experiences and build them into our thinking. Email me if you are interested, and we can set-up a time (chris@roguerunning.com). In spite of my strong perspective, I really do have an open mind to continue to learn/discuss.
      A few things:
      1. This thinking is a part of a 2-year journey, where for 2 years, I haven’t fitted anyone in “stability” shoes in spite of countless hours on the shoe floor. I wanted to see how this philosophy might play out in practice and what feedback I would receive from runners I see, coach and interact with frequently. I have also researched the topic on multiple levels including discussions with medical providers that I trust with running-related issues. I’m not calling myself the end-all expert but this isn’t a conclusion reached lightly, and I look forward to continuing to learn.
      2. In my research on bunions, there seems to be debate and uncertainty about cause vs. effect. Is the bunion caused by your footwear choices or is it a genetic condition that would happen anyway and your footwear choices simply exacerbate the pain/symptoms? I believe the research is inconclusive on that cause/effect debate which might explain why Meagan (who commented below) has had a different experience.
      3. That said, the pain you feel is real no matter the cause, and I am certain that certain footwear choices make your running more palatable than others. My hypothesis (which might be completely wrong, but I would love to test) is that you could be as happy or happier in a firm, “neutral” shoe (that creates a solid, uniform platform) with an accommodating upper that doesn’t put added pressure on the bunion itself. In fact, you would be a perfect candidate for this challenge if you are willing to experiment with me. I would love to include input from your podiatrist as well.

      Thanks for listening (and reading). And, I understand if you don’t want to bother with the debate. Ultimately, they are your feet. We just want to help make them happier. If getting you more of what has worked for you is the answer, then that’s a fine answer too!

      • Absolutely!
        The cause / effect debate is one I’ve been having for a while. Who will ever know, for my personal case. If I wasn’t a runner, would I have the bunions at all? I know two things for sure: shoes absolutely effect my pain level and my knees are included in that “pain”. I actually bought a more minimalist type of shoe in your store because the sales person talked me into it. It was an addida, very lightweight, like a feather (last summer). Within 50-miles, my knees were killing me and my feet were keeping me up at night. So, back to the stability shoe and happy again.
        Meagan, I have zero arch which causes the overpronation in my case, which may be causing the bunions (or they could be purely genetic but I’ve had differing opinions from different doctors – they do all agree that my shoe matters).
        I am always up for debate. Certainly, I’m not the rule, but the shoes are definitely helpful to me, in my experience, so far.

    • I think the reasons people have bunions and must vary with the person. I was born with very mild scoliosis. You would never notice it. But if you look at my shoulders you will see there is a about 1 inch or more in my shoulder height and also where my hip bones twist over. It seems more pronounced in my hips. I was told by a pedorithist ( who has now retired and I can’t reach anymore to get some help and advice) that this caused me to pound down first with my left foot down first because the torsion twist my leg up on one side thus giving almost all my body weight into that foot making the bunion so much worse as was evidenced by the wear on my shoes. The insert was too painful and i couldn’t wear it so i tried overpronation shoes and they do seem to help she said my wheels were unbalanced and i needed to elevation the opposite foot to the same level so the stride weight would be equal. Still my bunion grows to a monster now ..Do you have any advice on shoes I wear 2 plain memory foam inserts in opposing shoe to elevate me but still it kills. Thanks. Betsy

      • Becky: Thank you for the comment. In your case, I would recommend a firm, neutral shoe with a flexible upper to accommodate your bunion. The Wave Rider 18, Pearl Izumi N2, or New Balance 980 would be potential options to try. The latest Nike Pegasus could also work for you.

        If you are in Austin, come see us!

  4. I also have bunions–hideous, grotesque ones that make grown men cry and little children point and stare. However, my bunions have absolutely nothing to do with overpronation as my arch is fairly rigid and my footstrike is completely neutral. If I interpret Tasha’s comment correctly, she is either saying that excessive overpronation caused the bunions or that it exacerbates them. I suppose that is possible, but I definitely don’t think that the two conditions are intrinsically related.

    • Meagan: Thank you for the comment and for contributing to the debate. See above in #2 of my response to Tasha. There is a great “nature vs. nurture” debate out there about bunions which might explain why your bunion experience is a little different. I would love to know what shoes typically work for you.

  5. I can’t speak to the science of pronate/supinate. I purchase the shoe that I find most comfortable Let’s don’t forget the most important thing…do the shoes look really cool!
    Alan.

    • Thanks for the comment Alan! You will like commandment #2 on our 10 commandments of shoe fit: “The RIGHT shoe is the one that FEELS most NATURAL to you. The RIGHT shoe DISAPPEARS when you put it on; all others are for someone else.”

  6. Thanks Chris for your clarifying post! Just one question: I have made your “pancake test” on my Kinvara 4, which I bought last month. Surprisingly, they invert very easily. Is the test applicable to all the shoes or is it more suitable for thicker shoes? Thanks.

    • It is applicable to all shoes if you know the baseline flexibility. You should replace a shoe once it can move about 45 degrees from the baseline. The Kinvara can flex about 45 degrees in new condition, so you would replace once you can flex it 90 degrees under the pancake test.

  7. Hello Chris.. thanks for the discussion.. you are a brave man and I can hear the podiatrists howling all the way from Australia where I live. Just as a point of disclosure, I am a podiatrist.. i have had an athlete-only practice for almost 30 years. I am also a biomechanist and hold research fellowships with the University of Melbourne and Staffordshire University in the UK. Finally, until a year ago, I was in charge of all medical research for the global body of ASICS! The following points I make are hopefully constructive.
    First, let me say you bring up some excellent points and foment a debate that definitely needs to be had. The categorisation of athletic footwear into stability, neutral and cushioning urgently needs to be demolished because it is completely meaningless. That said, I would gently urge you to show caution in terms of absolutes!
    Over pronation most certainly does exist.. it is just that it is not well understood and has been used as a cop out at many levels. For example.. pronation is a description of motion, and if one over pronates ones wrist, it is likely that a wrist sprain will ensue.I am not trying to be smart, because I know you are discussing pronation in relation to the foot, but it is important to have on the table that the term is not exclusive to the foot at all.
    Right, now to the gist of it. I would be interested to know where you got your 98/2 ratio for pronation/supination. I have never heard that before, and to the best of my knowledge this is quite argumentative. Notwithstanding, foot overpronation certainly is a real thing and certainly exists. There is also an over whelming body of evidence in the scientific literature that links it strongly, if not absolutely to injury. As a point of order, I disagree with your assertion that plantar fasciitis (an incorrect term).. ” that’s caused by tight or weak lower legs/calves.”. Well.. no it is not.. there is no evidence for this statement at all. The evidence points to the fact that it is caused by a change of the energy dissipation ratio of the fatty tissue under the heel, and that this has been shown, in multiple randomised controlled trials to be related to BMI and a pronated foot position! In fact, the trials show that a pronated foot position does not cause the issue, but exacerbates it once present.So again.. I gently urge you to reconsider speaking in absolutes! It is now generally agreed that tight or weak calves have nothing to do with the general condition of plantar heel pain, which is not inflammatory and therefore very rarely indeed actual “plantar fasciitis.”
    Now back to the crusty issue of “overpronation”. I believe the point you make is related to the quantity of observed pronation at the joint below the ankle, the subtalar joint.I absolutely agree that this is largely irrelevant and largely uninfluenced by running footwear. However, the real culprit in terms of pronation and injury is the timing of the event. Pronation and supination are normal and essential gait events, each one serving a purpose. They have very specific timing within the gait cycle, and if this timing is altered, it has a very big effect indeed on athlete function. Subtalar joint pronation normally only occurs for about 20-25% of the stance phase of gait, then the foot begins to supinate from that pronated position and eventually ends up actually supinated at take off (propulsion). If pronation occurs at a time when it should not, for example late in the midstance or even propulsive phases of gait, it most certainly is pathologic, most certainly can cause of contribute to injury at pretty much any level, and most certainly by my definition is ‘overpronation”. The model is all about how a tissue is stressed by movement, not how much movement occurs!
    Shoes, and especially shoe geometry can help this… a lot,
    Now it may be that the list you have created works for you and your store, but for some people, I promise you, you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For some people, a “a new, neutral shoe without the so-called correction.” will work an absolute treat, and for others, it may well injure them. Just like the barefoot/minimalist movement had its share of injuries, just like people may be injured in a Kayano or an Adrenaline, absolutes rarely work for runners, because the variability of the human organism is just too broad for absolutes.
    Good luck with the challenge, and I hope these comments have provided food for thought.
    best
    Simon Bartold

    • Chris – You made it a point to jump all over the responses of the undereducated people but you just got SCHOOLED by Simon. This was about the best written comment to a blatantly written marketing pitch I’ve ever seen.

      Simon – great job.

      Don’t go buy shoes at Rogue – they’ll just try to shove you into something using an absolute.

      Chris – get an education that involves more than being a coach before making statements like this again in the future. You look foolish.

    • Simon: Thank you for contributing to the discussion. I appreciate your points and the nuances that you bring up. Also, I assure you that this isn’t about absolutes. The shoe industry has made this about absolutes by implying that a posted shoe is the end-all and be-all of fixing running related issues. And alas, we sit here in a day and age where ~60% of runners in specialty are fitted in posted shoes and now they have as many problems as they have ever had. This discussion is about shattering that over-simplification and treating every runner that walks in the door as an individual that cannot be placed in one of 3 categories. I happen to believe (and have tested it for 2 years myself) that happier and healthier runners come when you take the posted shoes out of the mix and focus on other variables in the fitting process.

      One follow-up for you: When you were at Asics, I understand that you helped pioneer some of the research around the fluid axis and how it might (at varying angles) help provide a better concept of stability. If there are some instances where overpronation can occur, as you say, what stability concepts might provide a more direct benefit than the “post?”

      • It is a great question Chris! The biomechanics of the STJ are complex, but it rotates about an axis (which varies from athlete to athlete), which is aligned from the posterior plantar heel to the anterior dorsal midfoot.. so imagine taking an iron rod and driving it through a shoe from the outside bottom, diagonally, to the inside top. then grab the iron rod at each end and “twirl” the rod. this is the subtalar joint axis and it controls the amount of pronation and supination, which we agree are normal and essential movements. BUT.. if the axis is excessively deviated, the foot will pronate more.. maybe a lot more.. and this might be a problem. So the idea is that by manipulating the geometry of the midsole, we should be able to make a difference to this motion.. no added weight.. no counters dual density blah blah.. hope that makes sense!

  8. Hi Chris,
    Good on you mate!
    I previously worked for the biggest 2 Running shoe chains in the UK and more than not sold people neutral shoes with a full explanation why.
    Don’t be surprised if the cynics accuse you of doing this for marketing reasons.
    Anyone if their mind is open and goes through this process day after day in a shop
    environment quickly realises somethings not quite right with it.
    Keep up the good work!

  9. Pingback: It’s All About the Science. And Beer. | Under Pressure

  10. I have been plagued with shin splints for years and have tried almost everything (compression socks, new shoes, special insoles, seeing a podiatrist and sports medicine doc, etc). I had some relief from them for about 9 months when they came back suddenly, but only in one leg. I looked at some of my race photos and that same leg is also the side that pronates excessively, whereas the other does not pronate as much, and has no problem. I am a medical student, so I have higher-than-average knowledge of human anatomy and biomechanics, and I read that over pronation puts more of the force requirements for plantar flexion on the tibialis posterior, rather than the gastroc’s and soleus (which are more fatigue resistant). I would LOVE to know what to do to get rid of these injuries, but at this point I’m clueless.

    • Bekki: Thank you for the comment. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or scientist (as I said in the blog), just a coach, running shoe geek, and someone who has previously suffered with shin splints (that led to a stress fracture).

      First of all, if you live in Austin, I would encourage you to come to Dr. Spears, who offers a free injury clinic on Wednesday from 4-6 pm in our downtown store. He is an orthopedist who has spent his lifetime dedicated to fixing overuse injuries in endurance athletes. He knows his stuff and would certainly be another opinion worth getting if you are here.

      If not, then perhaps trying what has worked for me (and others I have coached) on this issue will help you. Perhaps not, but I hope so.

      I have had the most success with a focus on strengthening and stretching the shin muscle (Tibialis anterior). For stretching this muscle, you can do this post-run by sitting on your knees and moving back into this position (http://www.teachpe.com/images/jenny/shin_stretch.jpg) with your toes pointed straight behind you. You may not be able to go back this far at first, just lean back until you feel the stretch. For strengthening, 2 primary exercises:
      a. Toe lifts with a little bit of weight (like a coke can or can of soup). You can do this easily by elevating your leg and then looping over your toe a plastic grocery bag with a coke can or can of soup in it.
      b. Walking on your heels for 30 meters stretches. This one is simple. Just walk on your heels and you will feel that muscle fatigue of the course of 30 meters.

      I recommend that people start with 3 sets of 10/30 meters every other day. Do 10 toe lifts with each leg and then walk for 30 meters on your heels and then repeat 3 times.

      At the same time, I would do the things that help reduce any inflammation that might be there – ice and compression particularly. I had the most success with wrapping my leg lightly with an ace bandage at night on the most painful area instead of an overall compression sock. The more targeted compression seemed to help more with relieving pain in my case.

      I hope this helps and would love to hear how things turn out for you.

      Best,

      Chris

  11. Hi Chris,

    Interesting discussion. There is still much to be learned about running bio-mechanics. I do agree that injury prevention and rehabilitation is the most underrated aspect of any running store – so much can be deterred with simple preventative routines. As Simon said above over-pronation (“exaggerated, extended, etc”) is very real, however, the extent that it is a major concern to the well-being of a runner is debatable.

    One flawed aspect in your post is how you are labeling running shoes. You spend a good portion insinuating that what we know about pronation is wrong and that shoe companies are proliferating a myth with their stability and motion control category shoes. Yet in your “Challenge” you have listed a bunch of shoes that are considered stability without any true verification that these shoes are stability other than relating to the marketing of the companies that you’ve previously deemed as feeding customers and running stores “bullsh*t”. In the real world, Chris, there are independent running shoe testers (such as Opis Test – http://opistest.com/ ) who show that some of the shoes you have selected for your “Challenge” are not actually stabilizing shoes (The Ghost 6 is rated higher in stability than the Lunar Eclipse – The Kinvara more stable than both).

    My point is not to say that you’re a loony, or that what you are doing is asinine, but to bring to your attention that if you are going down this rabbit hole don’t stop half-way. Your goal to your community as an owner of a running store is to provide the best information possible to your customers, not the information that you think is correct. All you have proved so far is that there are dissenters to the common dialogue in the running industry. As you’ve stated, you are not a Doctor nor do you have any special qualifications as a scientist or health professional. We should probably leave it that way.

    One other thing: quoting Nietzsche in a discussion about foot bio-mechanics is quite a stretch. If you’re goal is to paint an existentialists view on the topic at hand, then by all means quote away, but if it is to have a lively discussion lets leave the old, dead dudes out of it.

    Cheers friends,

    F. Soup

    • Francis:

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate this and all contributions to the discussion.

      On your point about labeling… it is not lost on me that there are shoes in the so-called “neutral” category that are more stable than shoes in the “stability” category. For the purposes of the blog, I was using the industry’s convention b/c that’s what I was trying to bust. To tackle the more refined point that you discuss would have created another rabbit hole to chase down. But, I assure you, in our fitting philosophy, we absolutely view certain highly stable neutral shoes with the appropriate skepticism as well.

      And, my apologies to Nietzsche. You are right in that he didn’t deserve to get dragged into this silly discussion.

      Chris

  12. Pingback: What’s the BEST Running Shoe? | Running Fiesta

  13. @chris amazing article. What is your Opinion of Nike free 5.0 shoes for long distance walking exercise. I can see that you voted for the neutral shoes. What about flexible shoes like Nike free 5.0 that has fair cushioning (transitional / elemental shoes) also. Also your comments on minimalist running shoes and the trend.

    • Thanks for your comment and the kind words! On your questions:

      1. The Free can be a great shoe, BUT it is definitely not for everyone. Because it is soft and highly flexible, I tend to only recommend it to those with highly efficient gaits and really flexible feet. For anyone with more rigid feet or who might need a firmer platform to run efficiently, then it can cause problems.

      2. On minimalism: I don’t tend to like the term b/c it has different meanings for different people. And, with the downfall of barefoot running and Vibram, many in the industry like to say that “minimalism is dead” as a means to justify a movement back to the same old ways of fitting. And, it’s true, most people shouldn’t be running barefoot or the equivalent, but what the barefoot fad has done is forced innovation in the weight in shoes. That is something that is here to stay. No longer must more cushioning equal heavier shoe. And, the traditional cushioned trainers, from the innovative brands, are now 2+ ounces lighter than they used to be with the same functional and cushioning properties (e.g the Mizuno Wave Rider). That to me is where the magic is. 2 ounces per foot is huge for someone taking hundreds and thousands of steps on a run.

      • @chris Thanks for the reply.
        What about power walking… 1 hour walking daily.. Can Nike free 5.0s be recommended for that..? I have heard flexible shoes is what is required for walking.. Yet to know the truth.

  14. Pingback: On the road again (with some new running and outdoor gear)

  15. @chris Thanks for the reply.
    What about power walking… 1 hour walking daily.. Can Nike free 5.0s be recommended for that..? I have heard flexible shoes is what is required for walking.. Yet to know the truth.

    • Jack: Generally, the same rules apply for walking and running when it comes to your shoes. I would only recommend the soft, flexible Nike Free to someone with flexible feet (whether for walking or running).

  16. Thanks Chris for being so brave.
    This is definitely a debate worth having. I am from the UK and am appalled by the nonsense that Runners World and so called experts come out with re: shoe selection. They have absolutely no business in propagating this myth based on pseudoscience. I am from a medical background and am taught to question all medical claims, yet egged on by the shoe industry this otherwise excellent publication have continued to let themselves and their readers down.
    I should add that I am not a minimalist runner (switched from Asics 2xxx to Mizuno Wave Riders, when I started to question the benefit of a medial post).
    Once again, thanks
    Ellis

  17. Completely agree with this post, I heavily pronate but have a rather flat arch of my foot which causes any ‘correcting’ shoes to cause pain after the first few miles. Switched to neutral shoes several years ago, no injuries, no pain even running marathon. Plenty of studies to back this up too (remember reading about one performed on 10,000 army recruits in ‘The First 20 Minutes’ which showed no difference to performance or injury prevention).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s