More than a few new runners have been surprised to learn how much of a difference specialty running shoes make when compared to “regular” shoes. A lot of research, physical science, and decades of experience go into what makes the modern running shoe so effective at what it does—which will be our topic of discussion today.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Cheap department store shoes have been designed mostly with looks in mind. While some running shoes look pretty cool, realistically, fashion should be the furthest thing from your mind while on the track or the road. Manufacturers also cut corners to make the shoes more affordable (which is why you’ve probably noticed that they fall apart so quickly).
In this regard, running shoes aren’t necessarily just for running. Anyone who spends a significant amount of time on their feet will benefit from the additional arch support, air flow, and perhaps most importantly, the scientifically improved cushioning provided by running shoes.
With that in mind, let’s touch on our first topic:
Cushion, It’s Not Just For Comfort
Cushion does indeed provide additional comfort. “Comfort” is just another way to say “a lack of discomfort.” Or, in the case of so many runners, pain.
Strategically placed midsole cushioning, that is to say, cushioning for the area of the foot between the ball and the heel, has been proven to reduce the amount of stress placed on the heel, toes, and perhaps most importantly, the ankles. In addition to improving safety for the runner, this support can even help to alleviate pain in other areas of the body, such as the knees, hips, and back.
Cushion isn’t there just because it makes shoes feel nice—it can make you a better runner, since you won’t be thinking about the ache in your ankles or lower back, you’ll be able to focus on the path ahead of you.
Arch Support Isn’t Just Necessary, It’s a Game-Changer
There’s a bit of a misconception about arch support in the sense that some people believe that it’s only necessary for folks with flat feet. While it’s undeniably true that flat-footed runners will enjoy a ton of benefits from arch support, so will folks with even a high arch.
Before we get to the why, let’s pause for a moment and discuss the role of the foot arch as it relates to the body as a whole (it’s a lot more interesting than you might think, promise).
The arch of your foot—or lack thereof, if you’re flat-footed—bear an incredible amount of stress for each mile we walk or run. With each step, our feet are responsible for absorbing the entire pressure of our body, and the arch does most of the work.
A quick bit of math can really illustrate just how important this is. There are 5,280 feet in one mile. The average person’s stride length is about 2.5 feet. So, assuming the individual in question weighs 150 pounds, we can calculate that in only a single mile, 316,800 pounds of pressure has been applied to the arches of the feet (not all at once, obviously).
So… that’s why arch support is important.
Much like the design model for the midsole cushioning, a pair of good quality specialty running shoes will have been specifically made to provide the most amount of arch stability possible. Depending on your unique arch shape, some shoes might provide more benefit than others—but arch support is important for everyone.
The Most Important Reason of All: How Specialty Running Shoes Prevent Injury
The biggest benefit of specialty running shoes compared to regular old department store shoes is that running shoes have been designed to prevent injury. When you run on a regular basis, you quickly learn just how important that is.
Running is considered an impact activity. What this means is that your body is hitting the ground, quite literally over and over. As we discussed in the previous section, over even a short distance, this represents an incredible amount of stress on your body, and your feet in particular. Anything you can do to ease that stress should be considered a win.
Can Specialty Running Shoes Really Improve Athletic Performance?
While they’re not going to hoist you up off the couch and make you go get some exercise, it is true that specialty running shoes can improve athletic performance—and not by “just a little bit” either, the gains can be significant.
Why? Mostly because of all the reasons we’ve discussed here today. Specialty running shoes make you feel more comfortable and have the potential to protect you from injury. These features combined mean that you can run more comfortably and more confidently. For many, this translates to not only an increased enjoyment of running, but also a greater running capacity.
If you’d like to maximize the benefit of your next pair of running shoes, make sure to read on to the next section.
How to Learn More About Specialty Running Shoes and Get a Free Gait Analysis at Runner’s Roost in Fort Collins
A gait analysis test will help you learn more about the way you run. Specifically, you’ll discover exactly how you pronate (how you move you feet side to side). This can help you figure out what kind of shoes are going to give you the best amount of comfort, injury prevention, and performance.
If you’d like to get a completely free gait analysis test, all you have to do is come visit us at Runners Roost in Fort Collins. Learn more and see a short video about how we perform our free gait analysis test here.
The bottom line is that the shoes you wear do matter—and we’re here to help you find the best possible pair.