Each year when I visit Washington, DC during the joyous holiday season I am sure to stop by the Festivus Pole in Adams Morgan and air my grievances. Well, this year Festivus has come early. In the past I have discussed my disappointment with Joe Montana and his Skechers Shape-Ups endorsement. Here is one study suggesting that merely walking in a regular shoe may be detrimental and negatively effect gait while walking barefoot decreased peak joint loads. Imagine how negatively a goofy shoe like the Shape-Up might effect things. Now I hang my head as I see “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky has also gone off the deep end. I was reading Maxim magazine recently when I saw a full-page ad for what’s known as the Skechers Resistance Runner. Ironically, as tears of rage slowly rolled down my cheeks (I’m an emotional guy ladies) I thumbed through the various pages of scantily clad women only to stop when I saw another page rating some of the newer minimalist shoes put out by some of the big companies, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and Puma. Quite a contradiction.
Now I’m not even sure where to begin with this one but I looked into what this new Skechers shoe is all about. What I found was “Resistance Runner that has Kinetic Wedge technology designed to help create a more fluid stride that emulates a natural running state. This enhances performance.” I also found this video from Skechers. Now one of the biggest problems I have is with the terminology used by Skechers. Resistance? Loosely defined resistance is opposing, withstanding, or opposition of force. This is a resistance against the minimalist shoe theory maybe. Regardless, it sounds like the running difficulty will be increased, like during resistance training. Well, at the Skechers claims running is made “easier”. The designer also uses the term explosive when describing the increased benefits to runners. Now I am no track coach or distance running expert but when I think about moving swiftly it’s all about staying on the ball of the foot and projecting the body forward. I think of heel striking, which the shoe promotes, as deceleration or braking. However, the video claims that the heel strike and roll to the ball of the foot via the Kinetic Wedge mimics natural running motion. I’m just baffled by that. I could be wrong but I have read and seen research that claims, how shall I put this, the exact opposite. Video analysis shows barefoot runners striking on the forefoot. In keeping with that theme I was under the impression that the longer time an athlete spends on the ground the slower they will be. If the athlete has to heel strike and roll to the ball of the foot before pushing off again it’s sounds awfully slow compared to the alternative. Not to mention that the Wedge allegedly gives an energy return for better explosiveness. How much can that spring really do for someone? At first thought a lot of force would have to come crashing down through the heel in the hope that some might be returned by the shoe itself. Sound efficient?
Several years ago I stopped training with various so-called aids including lifting straps, belts, gloves and tennis shoes. I’ve said it before and I’ll reiterate again, I am a simple man. At Ambition Athletics we like to keep it simple, yet highly effective (see Occam’s Razor). Logically, I see it this way, according to podiatrychannel.com;
The human foot combines mechanical complexity and structural strength. The ankle serves as foundation, shock absorber, and propulsion engine. The foot can sustain enormous pressure (several tons over the course of a one-mile run) and provides flexibility and resiliency.
The foot and ankle:
– 26 bones in each (aka one quarter of all the bones in the human body).
– 33 joints
– 400,000 nerve endings
Why would I want to take these factors out of the mix in my training or everyday life? That’s a lot of bones and joints. If I’m going to take the time to promote joint integrity, bone density, strength and balance in my training already, why compromise my feet and ankles by wrapping them in large cushions that actually change my natural movement? As with other balance devices on the market, one goal is increased proprioception. Well how about instead of standing on an inflated beach ball, just simply take your shoes off and try to train. That might be hard enough for many people. It’s natural proprioception. Need to make the exercise more difficult? Add load, a.k.a resistance.
For the record I don’t advocate that anyone immediately run, pun intended, to the store and purchase Vibrams or go running barefoot tomorrow. I have both heard stories and met people who have had some injuries by not transitioning to a more minimal shoe and going for too much too soon. I just encourage people to think about the body and their training logically. The body is intricate but works together as a whole. Leaving parts out doesn’t seem to make sense. Nor does trying to cheat the system by walking, jogging, speed limping or running in some oversized cushioned rocker. Use your body the way it was designed and used for so many years without back, foot, hip and knee pain in near epidemic proportions. Take your shoes off as much as possible to reconnect yourself with the ground. Wear a thin soled shoe when needed. If you’ve actually read this far and are still interested, read Martin Rooney’s The Importance of Barefoot Training.
– Mike Baltren