Archive for the tag - sneakers

Specialized Running Shoes Don’t Reduce Injury Risk.

Screen-shot-2010-09-01-at-3.52.49-PMIf you’ve ever been to a running store, you’ve probably noticed an extensive selection of specialized shoes. The salespeople are often trained to examine your foot type, and then make recommendations based on your arch. There are shoes for high, low or normal arches with specialized midsoles and cushions; the idea is that these arch-specific shoes reduce the injury risk of the runners who wear them.

But is this true?

It’s a question that the U.S. military asked before investing in arch-specific shoes for their soldiers.

In a subsequent study involving male and female marine recruits, researchers divided participants into two groups. In the first group, marines were given shoes specific to their arch type. In the second group, marines were given a stability shoe regardless of their arch type. The study controlled for other known injury risk factors including smoking, prior fitness level, etc.

After crunching the data, researchers discovered that there was little difference in injury risk. And in other related studies on the same subject, researchers actually found a slightly elevated risk of injury in arch-specific running shoes.

Instead of listening to salespeople or buying into marketing hype, experts agree that the best way to find a running shoe is to try it on and take it for a spin. If there is pain or discomfort, try a different shoe. If it feels right, trust your body and buy it.

 

Study: Are Barefoot Running Shoes Dangerous?

vibram_fivefingers_flow_1Over the past few years, barefoot running has been gaining traction in the running community. In fact, it’s estimated that minimalist shoes now make up 15% of the .5 billion running shoe market.

There is some science to back up the trend. As I reported early, barefoot running can increase efficiency:

Oxygen consumption is typically 4% to 5% lower in barefoot running, which is attributed to factors including moving the shoes’ weight (energy demand increases about 1% for every 100g of additional mass on the foot), the bending resistance and friction of the sole, midsole energy absorption, and energy lost to metatarsophalangeal joint stiffness.

A recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise is adding more science to the barefoot running debate. For the study, researchers examined 36 experienced runners over a 10-week period. All participants underwent an MRI before the study and were then divided into two groups of either traditional running shoes or five finger barefoot running shoes.

Participants in the barefoot group followed the suggested industry protocol by easing into the barefoot running shoes:

They did one short (1-2 mile) run in the minimalist shoes the first week, and added an additional short run each week so that they ran at least 3 miles in the new shoes by week three. They were then told to add mileage in the minimal shoes as they felt comfortable, with the goal of replacing one short run per week in traditional shoes with the new shoes.

At the end of the 10-week study, all participants were again given MRIs. According to researchers, the runners in the barefoot group showed significant signs of stress including bone marrow edema (inflammation causing excessive fluid in the bone).

One researcher noted:

Whenever a bone is impacted by running or some other repetitive action, it goes through a normal remodeling process to get stronger. Injury occurs when the impact is coming too quickly or too powerfully, and the bone doesn’t have a chance to properly remodel before impact reoccurs.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that barefoot running or minimalist running shoes are necessarily bad. Instead, the study suggests that a longer transition period may be advisable. If you’ve been running your whole life in traditional running shoes, give yourself more than a few weeks to become accustomed.

Personally, I prefer the Nike Free Run shoes. They’re light, flexible and emulate barefoot running while still providing some support. In fact, my feet didn’t fit properly in the five finger shoes – so they weren’t an option for me. The Free Run shoes also come in different levels of support to help your transition. Even so, it’s taken me almost a year and several pairs of Nike Free Run shoes to fully transition and commit to the minimalist sneakers.

Have you ever tried minimalist running shoes? Let me know about it in the comments below!

Disclaimer: This isn’t a paid endorsement or sponsorship of Nike Free Run sneakers.

Barefoot Running Benefits.

Barefoot running has developed something of a cult following – and, admittedly, I’m starting to drink the Kool-Aid. You might even say that it’s a movement.

Think about it: Our feet are the result of millions of years of evolution and designed to safely and efficiently transport our bodies over a variety of surfaces at varying speeds. Running shoes, on the other hand, have only been around for a few decades. Maybe there’s something to be said for being barefoot.

I’m a big fan of data, but there hasn’t been much research on running barefoot versus running with shoes. And so, I was excited to discover a new study about barefoot running by researchers at Northumbria University.

The study followed a mix of recreational and trained runners who completed a variety of runs in both shoes and barefoot on separate days. The study concluded that newly barefoot runners immediately alter their gait to that of habitual barefoot runners – and strike the ground with lower impact forces and loading rates than runners who use shoes. The altered gait is both safer and more comfortable.

Moreover, barefoot runners used an average of 6% less oxygen. In other words, their running became 6% more efficient. This could be for a number of reasons – not the least of which may be the added weight of sneakers. According to research, there’s about a 1% increase in energy demand for every 100 grams of additional footwear mass.

A mere 6% might not sound like much – but when you look at Olympic events, for example, you quickly realize that every hundredth of a second counts. Even a little added efficiency can make a huge difference for athletes performing at this level.

While the increases in efficiency and decreases in injury risk associated with barefoot running may seem small and inconsequential for most recreational runners, I’d recommend giving it a try. If you’re interested, the Nike Free Run (read my review) is a great transitional sneaker. It’s the sneaker that I use, and I’m in love with its flexibility.

And beyond the potential benefits, there’s something very freeing, natural and almost romantic about running barefoot and feeling the earth beneath your feet. That is, until you step on a piece of glass.

In the comments below, let me know if you’re a fan of barefoot running – or if you’re curious to give it a try.

7 Best Tips & Tricks for Runners!

Lycra shorts and pants aren't just sexy - they're functional, too! They can help prevent chaffing for avid runners.

No trip the gym feels complete without a good run (and subsequent sweat) on the treadmill. I’ve been running for more than a decade – in fact, I first started running for my high school’s indoor track team – and I’ve learned a few tips from coaches and experts along the way.

Here are 7 of my absolute favorite running tips and tricks:

  1. Reduce stiffness. Feelings of tightness are common for runners, but a simple warmup strategy can help reduce stiffness. I jog for 3 minutes before my run; the jog heats up my muscles. Muscles stretch best when they’re warmed up – so immediately following my jog, I engage in some stretching. Then, I’m ready for my run!
  2. Eliminate blisters. Blisters are likely the result of loose shoes or bad socks. Ensure that your sneakers fit tightly and that the laces go through every eyelet. If your heel is moving inside the sneaker, then the sneaker is too loose. Moreover, make use of a running-specific sock. My favorite is Lululemon’s Ultimate Running Sock. They are anatomically constructed, moisture-wicking and don’t bunch up or slip while running.
  3. Boosting motivation. Experts often recommend creating a public goal to help boost your motivation and increase your accountability. If you announce to friends and family on Facebook, for example, that you’ll be running a 5k in 2-months, then it may help get you moving a little more often. Take it a step further and invite other people to join you at the 5k. Shorter term, a good playlist or workout buddy can help, too.
  4. Prevent joint pain. Many things can contribute to joint paint – but the easiest way to reduce your risk is to replace your running sneakers regularly. Running sneakers typically last 400 – 500 miles (use this formula to calculate how long your sneakers will last). When you buy a new pair of sneakers, use a magic marker to write the anticipated expiration date on the inside of the shoe.
  5. Stop chaffing. Many runners experience chaffing of the inner thighs due to the friction of skin-on-skin contact. To reduce chaffing, you can make use of any number of creams or powders. Even using petroleum jelly can help. If the problem persists, it may be worthwhile to invest in a pair of lycra or spandex shorts or pants to wear under your running clothes.
  6. Breathe properly. Most experts recommend a breathing rhythm of 3:2 wherein the runner inhales for three footstrikes and exhales for two. An easy way to remember this technique is to breathe along the five-syllable mantra, “I’m get-ting strong-er.”
  7. Catch your breath. Speaking of breath, if you’re having trouble breathing or catching your breath, simply slow down. You’re going too fast. Slower and steady wins the race; it’s never a good idea to start a longer run with an unsustainable sprint. Over time, you’ll build up your endurance and speed.

Those are my 7 best and favorite tips for runners – but please share your own in the comments below!

    Calculate How Long Your Running Shoes Should Last.

    The sniff test is not the best way to determine your shoe's expiration date.

    Old or worn-out running shoes could set you up for injury. With each mile, shoes slowly lose their shock absorption ability and the stability is compromised. Much of this can happen even before the shoe’s treads wear out; your shoe may still look new even though it’s in need of replacement.

    Here’s how to calculate how long running shoes should last you:

    1. Add up your typical weekly mileage. I run 18.75 miles per week.
    2. If you are an avid runner, divide 400 by your weekly mileage. If you’re not an avid runner, divide 500 by your weekly mileage. For me, I need to divide 400 by 18.75. The result is 21.33.
    3. Divide this number by 4. For me, the result is 5.33.
    4. This is the number of months that running shoes will last for you.

    In other words, I need to replace my running shoes about twice a year. Since my last pair was purchased in March, I’m definitely overdue.

    Here’s a quick tip to make things easier: Write your shoe’s expiration date on the inside of each shoe with a permanent marker. And when you get a new pair, remember to do the same. It’s an easy way to remember when it’s time for a replacement.

    Are you running with worn out shoes? According to this formula, how often do you need to replace yours?