Extra cushioned running shoes are actually dangerous for runners because these shoes cause runners to slam the pavement harder than in minimalist running shoes or running barefoot. This is why Vibram Five Fingers recently seen unprecedented growth in sales as a result of the high rates of injury in runners who wear running shoes with cushioning.
Extra Cushioned Running Shoes Means Extra Impact During Running
The truth is, running shoes with thick soles may soak up some impact during running, however according to Robbins and Waked, impact remains high with cushioned running shoes because runners land harder in them. Why?
It all comes down to stability. Runners show better stability barefoot or in barefoot-like running shoes. Add some cushioning under the foot and dynamic stability becomes instantly compromised.
Robbins and Waked found that soft compressible shoe cushioning caused a harder landing strategy to improve stability during running.
- To compress shoe cushioning to a less destabilizing thinner-stiff variety, the runner must strike the ground harder.
- Similar observations were made in runners who ran barefoot on a soft, matted surface by which vertical impact increased by 20% as compared with a harder, more rigid surface.
Other work on stability assessments in athletes have found that cushioned materials under the bare foot increased sway, confirming that shoe cushioning is nothing but an interference.
Why We Land with More Force in Cushioned Running Shoes
The researchers impressively argued that running shoe technology fails to consider human landing behavior that is innate.
- Human landing behavior in running has deep evolutionary roots whereby humans adopted the strong tendency toward favoring a forefoot strike landing when running barefoot.
- A forefoot strike landing is one of the traits that make-up our natural landing behavior when barefoot running.
Humans also modify innately knee and hip flexion to improve landing softness when running barefoot –we bend these joints to increase landing comfort, however we bend these joints less in running shoes with cushioning, therefore impact remains greater at touchdown.
More From Run Forefoot:
American Society for Testing and Materials. Standard test method for rubber property-durometer hardness. In: Annual book of ASTM standards. Philadelphia: ASTM Publishers, 1988 (09.01):596-600.
Mcnitt-Gray JL, Yokoi T. The influence of surface characteristics on the impulse characteristics of drop landings. In: Proceedings of the 13th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics.
Burlington (VT): American Society of Biomechanics, 1989:92-3.
Pyykko I, Jantti P, Aalto H. Postural control in elderly subjects. Age Ageing 1990; 19:215-21.
Robbins SE, Hanna AM, Jones LA. Sensory attenuation induced by modem athletic footwear. J Test Eva1 1988; 16:412-6.
Robbins SE and Waked E. Balance and vertical impact in sports: role of shoe sole materials. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 1997; 78:463-7.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.