I like to run regularly and I live in a city which means I tend to do a fair amount of that running on concrete and asphalt. That leaves me very concerned for the continuing health of my knees. I try to be conscious of my running form keep my footfalls light. When I run with others I often point out to them that they’re stomping their feet and are probably doing damage to their knees.
Another part of what I’ve been doing until recently is wearing nice running shoes. I came across some research a while back saying that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. I was skeptical at first but it started to make more sense to me over time. As I’ve been doing yoga over the past year I’ve become much more aware of my alignment, like how my flat footedness causes my ankles to roll slightly inward. I’ve also come to understand how little things like that affect your posture all the way up. The idea that our feet evolved in a specific way that didn’t take thick healed shoes into account sounded more and more plausible.
The short version of the story is that thick healed shoes, like those pretty much everyone wears these days, cause you to land on your heal when you run. Your muscular-skeletal structure is set up to land on the ball of your foot when you run, allowing your arch and calf muscle to absorb the bulk of the force when your foot lands. Even though the cushioning in a shoe will blunt the peak amount of force so it doesn’t hurt to land on your heal the way it does barefoot, the shoe can’t change the amount of weight coming down. When you strike with your heal, the force goes straight up your leg, notably compressing your knee. I decided to buy some minimalist running shoes see for myself.
It’s been about 2 months, and you definitely need to start out slowly to make the transition, but I’m now going farther and faster than I was beforehand. I’m completely sold. I’m putting less stress on my knees and hamstrings, and I’m not getting shin splints any more. My posture when I run is better now, before I had to make a conscious effort not to look down, now it happens naturally. My calves are still ramping up and still very sore when I finish a run, but I feel like I’m getting to be less limited by my legs and getting to push cardiovascular endurance more than I did with shoes.
If you’re a running, I don’t blame you if you’re skeptical but I really recommend giving this a try.