A study by Mueller et al. concluded that extra cushioned running shoes are detrimental to a young runner still developing a running style.
Extra Cushioned Running Shoes Bad for Kids
In the paper, 12 adolescent runners ran on a treadmill wearing either running shoes with heel cushion, zero drop minimalist shoes, and without shoes (i.e. barefoot) at four different speeds.
Those who wore running shoes with heel cushion landed with a heel strike as compared with the other running conditions. Ultimately, the researchers found that as runners changed their footwear, their foot strike changed as well. Many studies have reported this kind of correlational evidence, also.
As expected, those who ran barefoot or in zero drop minimalist shoes landed primarily on the forefoot. The authors noted that many young track athletes train in ‘trainers’ which have a thick, cushioned heel, whereas on the track, these runners wear racing flats. Alternating between these kinds of shoes will give these runners less advantage in terms of performance and prevention of injury simply because they never fully harness the proper forefoot running technique.
Better forefoot running mechanics is indeed linked to better performance. Similar links have emerged between optimal forefoot running mechanics and barefoot running whereby many of the best runners in the world grew up running and training barefoot –and therefore, make greater use of the proper forefoot running technique as adults.
On a larger level, recognizing barefoot running’s performance role could improve endurance capacity in young athletes and decreases their likelihood of engaging in heel strike as adult runners.
Here are my other articles that highlights the best minimalist footwear for young runners.
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- Proper Running Arm Swing
Mueller et al. Cushion heel running shoe may alter adolescent biomechanics, performance. Amer J Orthop. 2013;42(4):155.
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.