The Great Shoe Debate Continues

Posted on January 28, 2010


Once again, the Great Shoe Debate has been rekindled. Daniel Lierberman’s report in nature (if that’s too technical, read this) sparked a quick response at the running front which was aptly titled: Barefoot Running Goes Ballistic. Well, as a Newton Running blog, the post quickly turned into a Newton vs Vibram discussion. But within it, I found some points rather engaging. While I am not about to dash out to buy a pair yet, I am very keen to give them a try. (Hey Sir Issac, if you are reading this, pleaseeeee send me a pair! :))

Coincidentally, today I had a guy coming in (the running shop I worked in) for advise on his recent knee pain. I dug deeper and found out that the pain occured when he started running on road surfaces. He wanted to run longer distances and running 5-10 rounds around a football field was just too boring. He brought in his old shoes – a pair of worn out, cushioning shoes made by sketcher he bought a decade ago. Looking at the wear-out pattern, the arch of his feet and his standing posture, I put him into a pair of New Balance (cushioning of course), and onto the treadmill. The slow-motion playback showed him striking on his mid-foot and not over-pronating.

I am pretty sure the new shoes will provide him with more cushioning and elevate the impact on his knees from running on road surfaces. However, articles by Dr Daniel and Sir Issac (Newton Running) got me thinking…

One. Did running on grass surfaces, in a pair of terribly worn out shoes (read low heel lift) encouraged his mid-foot strike pattern?

Two. Will the change in the type of surface which he will be running on, together with the new shoes, cause a change to his foot strike pattern?

I will probably never find out. Maybe I should do an experiment on myself. Trail running?