Remember Goldilocks? She broke into the Bear Family’s house, ate their breakfasts, sat in their chairs and then tried out their beds. The first bed was too hard, the second bed was too soft, and the third bed was….well…you know…
How are your shoes? Are they just right, or not really? Too hard? Too soft? Too small? Our feet change over time and the style of shoes you have been wearing for years may not feel as comfortable as they used to feel. Not all running shoes are the same, which is a great thing because, neither are we.
Two different trends in running (and walking) shoes are maximal and minimal shoe styles.
Maximal Running Shoes
Two longtime mountain runners from Salomon footwear, started HOKA One One in 2010 based on what they’d found spending time in the mountains –full suspension mountain bikes, oversized tennis rackets and oversized skis provide a better opportunity to find the “sweet spot” that would maximize performance through stability and comfort.
HOKA shoes have more than twice the amount of cushioning compared to a standard shoe, which is designed to provide a broader base of support for shock absorption. The foot can sink a bit into the shoe rather than just sitting on top of it; and the shoes are also designed with a bit of a curve, called the metarocker, to assist with proper foot landing and improve performance.
Minimal Running Shoes
After the release of the book Born to Run, many runners became interested in barefoot running, which was suggested as a way to make our feet stronger and therefore, make runners less prone to injury. However, since most of us live the 21st Century-City-Life where broken glass and other dangerous obstacles are things we encounter regularly, minimalist shoes with a very thin, flat, foot-shaped sole offer a more practical take on barefoot running.
Neither maximal nor minimal shoes have true long-term studies to back any claims they actually prevent injury. Nevertheless, both styles have tons of convinced and converted followers. Personally, I’m in Camp Minimalist. I love how they give me immediate feedback on the effectiveness of my gait, which allows me to improve my form regularly. That is my personal preference but, as with any trend, you need to figure out what works best for you.
When Should You Try a New Shoe Model?
According to Amanda Brooks, running coach and owner of Run to The Finish, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you suffering from repeat injuries that physical therapy isn’t resolving? It may be time to try a new shoe.
- Have you been wearing the same model for years and years? Bodies change, be open to trying something new.
- Are you running personal bests injury-free? Don’t change.
- Have you lost weight? Gained weight? Changed your other workouts? Anything that might have caused a shift in your body could change your running gait and thus your trusty old shoe might not be your best choice now.
At the end of the day, no shoe alone (no matter how technologically advanced) is going to make you injury-free. To reduce your risk of injury, you should have a program that involves a well-developed, smart training plan, cross training, and strength training to keep you running and walking strong. But finding the right shoe that helps you feel good when you walk and run is definitely a step in the right direction!