Nice shoes… do they help?

I used to run for exercise. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t look like that now, huh? But I started running in college and kept it up for a few years after. Of course, after my first real bad case of shin splints, I was introduced to the world of real running shoes. (Ah, the original Nike Air Pegasus, circa 1982, my favorite shoe ever.) Everything I know about shoes now comes from those years, stuff like support, cushioning, foot pronation. Even today I tend to spend a lot of money on shoes, believing that the technology will save me from pain and other problems.

Here’s an article that says, not necessarily so: The painful truth about trainers: Are running shoes a waste of money? It points out that until the early 1970s, people ran in very basic shoes, with no cushioning or support at all, and people had very few foot problems. And we’re not talking about kids running around playing; we’re talking, among others, Roger Bannister—y’know, the first guy who ran a mile in under four minutes.

The fact is, as the article mentions, the running shoe industry basically invented itself, and thrives today. Yet no one has ever done a study on whether their shoes help. Do they prevent injury? Do they make you faster? There is no empirical evidence. There is now, though, anecdotal evidence that there are more foot injuries than ever among runners. The reason for this may be that we are defeating the foot’s natural abilities to do its own shock-absorption and load banlancing with the super-hi-tech shoes we spend dozens if not hundreds of dollars on.

I can take it one step further: It’s not just serious runners who would suffer. There are a lot of people buying either serious trainers or off-brand knock-offs of serious trainers. Maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe something simpler that makes our feet work more and get strong makes more sense. There may not be empirical evidence to support that yet, either, but at least it’s cheaper. It’s something I’ll be thinking about the next time I go shoe shopping.


About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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4 Responses to Nice shoes… do they help?

  1. I used to know some sports medicine types who mocked the running shoe industry mercilessly … their take on it being that pro-level athletes didn’t rely on their shoes to make them great.

    • songdogmi says:

      They might have been right all along.

      See, I’ve been totally sucked in to the hype — even though I haven’t run in over a dozen years, I still thought high-tech shoes were the way to go. Maybe it was the high-tech shoes that gave me problems in the first place.

  2. tastyeagle says:

    I’m not surprised. It seems more and more that a lot of technological innovations that supposedly changed our lives forever for the better ended up, simply changing them, and sometimes a little for the worse.

    I’m a bit of a weird clothing fetishist. I like wild, colorful designs. So I think the expensive, flashy shoes ‘look’ cool. Though I wouldn’t buy such ridiculously expensive shoes no matter what. They all get scuffed and worn out pretty quickly

    When I jog during lunchtime, I wear my previous generation of sneakers that I no longer use because they look too ratty to wear during general use.

    • songdogmi says:

      I know they have the best of intentions with most technological innovations, but it’s the old story of unintended consequences once again.

      I like kinda-spiffy shoes; the really colorful ones tend to be more glitzy than I like, but I don’t like really plain ones either. The plain ones can be pretty pricey if they have enough technology built into them, unfortunately.

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