As I always say, shoe cushioning to an experienced forefoot runner is acceptable, but thick shoe cushioning is not acceptable for any runner in my books. You have to always understand the fact that humans did not evolve to run wearing thick shoe cushioning, and this is why I have reason to believe that too-thick, cushioned running shoes may affect performance by impairing our balance when we run.
Thick Shoe Cushioning May Tire Runners Out Faster
Balance is everything in running and I believe that the more compressible, softer the material is under your foot, the more balance impairments will be amplified. This is why I agree with most barefoot running advocates, like Michael Sandler and Christopher McDougal, in that when running, the feet prefer a stable, firm surface (i.e. the barefoot with the ground) and to achieve this, there must be minimal to none cushioning under the foot. In contrast, this is what happens when you run in running shoes with super, thick under-heel and under-foot cushioning.
Thick, soft, squishy, compressible foamy under-foot material creates a shaky landing when running, which in turn, causes balance perturbations from the ground up such that the lower leg as well as the arms become more involved in stabilizing the entire body when running in such footwear. It is possible that the wobbly landings induced by thick cushioned running shoes causes fatigue by over-working lower leg muscle activity as a consequence and there also may be a greater need to stabilize the center mass as well, which would now involve more upper body muscle activity in the arms, for example, to gain better balance. The end result is the central nervous system identifies these landings as ‘unsafe’ and ‘stressful’ , which could result in more exaggerated muscular strain, and therefore substantially more energy expenditure.
This is what I want you to think about, is that there are so many biomechanical, kinematic and kinetic variables that are in distress when we wear super, thick squishy running shoes. There are tips and tricks you can do to avoid robbing your running performance which include educating yourself on the benefits of barefoot running and briefing yourself with the footwear for facilitate the proper running form, that is forefoot running.
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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.