The primary discussion for the purpose of this article is foot strike, shoe design and inserts.
The art of moving our body through space as a runner has many variables. Such as foot strike, arm movement, cadence, stride, body tilt and how we breath. Running is meant to be a simple movement of the human body moving across space. We are born to be natural runners. Unfortunately, the average recreational runner or running enthusiast refuses to keep an open mind to proper technics, and eventually becomes disillusioned.
The moment a child puts on their first pair of shoes they unfortunately learn through muscle memory how to over stride and heel strike. The built up heel of most shoes creates an adverse angle between the heel and forefoot. An average pair of running shoes will have a heel that is 8 to 10 degrees higher than the front of the toe box. This design leads to a foot strike that is inefficient and is a primary reason the running community has a high degree of foot, ankle and knee problems. What’s needed? A pair of shoes that have no more than a 6-degree heel to foot transition, zero degrees being the best.
What’s worse is that specialty running stores have convinced their customers that expensive inserts are needed. The truth is that 90% of runners do not need inserts. Price wise, running shoes are highly competitive from store to store. So, these retailers need to keep the price of the shoe as low as possible to attract customers. Once they have you sold you on a pair of shoes, they do their best to convince you that a pair of $30 inserts are needed. They have a good story about why you need them, but in reality, it only helps them earn a greater profit margin per sale. Inserts weaken the very same tendons and muscles needed for a strong and correct foot strike.
Unless prescribed by a doctor, if your child is wearing inserts, my recommendation is to take them out. Typically, inserts are only needed if you have completely flat feet or an above average high arch. Children and most adults should only be wearing inserts if they have been prescribed by an orthopedic or podiatrist. Don’t let a shoe salesperson sell you something that only a doctor or a qualified running coach should be recommending.
The mid foot strike and placement of the foot in relationship to the bodies center of gravity is naturally attained when no shoes are worn. (GIVE IT A TRY). The body will automatically adjust to a proper foot strike when barefoot. I will sometimes have runners take off their shoes so they can feel what a proper foot strike feels like. Our naked foot has what is called a zero drop from heel to mid foot. When the foot lands directly under the bodies center of gravity, it causes our largest set of muscles (Quadriceps) to function properly by lifting our knee in preparation for another foot strike. All four muscles that make up our quadriceps are attached to our knee. Improper shoes will cause our leg to extended too far in front of our center of gravity, and our quads will not function at 100%. It also puts abnormal wear on our knees, ankle and foot
To get the full benefit of hip extension while running, is to have the foot properly placed below the bodies center of gravity. The hamstring is the primary source of power as our foot hits the ground and propels us forward. It’s a huge muscle and we want that muscle to push us hard, forward and slightly upward, and It can only do its job when placed as near as possible to our center of gravity.
The bottom line is this. Without proper shoes an effective foot strike will be impossible to accomplish or learn. Less power will be generated along with a decrease running economy and possible long term foot, hip and knee injuries.
Regards, Coach Richard.