T Nation

Corrective Running Shoes - What's the Point?

The recent thread asking for advice on running shoes made me wonder:

Why have corrective shoes at all - i.e., why have shoes designed to correct over- and under- pronation, heel strike, and other defects in running form?

Are defects in running form the result of something unchangeable? It seems like this is obviously the case with those who have flat feet, but what about pronation and heel strike?

Right now I run short distances, hill sprints mostly, and I run mostly with a ball/middle of the foot strike (I had to learn how to do this) in shoes with virtually no padding and no elevated heel (they’re basically slippers with a sole).

I’m not interested in bashing the running shoe industry here. I just know very little about running shoes, despite having run track and cross country in high school, and I’m curious. I would particularly interested in the opinions of anyone who is familiar with the process by which those who work at running stores help clients choose the shoes that are ‘right for them.’

This is actually somewhat of a complicated issue.

First, arches have to be considered and whether or not they are impacting anything along the rest of the chain (all the joingts of the foot, ankle, knee, hip, lower back. One needs to inspect the heel (calcaneal varus/valgus), navicular height, tibial alignment, wear patterns on the shoe, as well as normal gait deviations. These are all considered when people present to a medical professional with pain.

Now the tough part is deciding whether or not these deviations cause a problem, whether it is simply one thing causing the other problems, or there is a problem caused by all of the aforementioned varibales. Even harder is having to decide how to appropriately decide the tendencies an individual may have towards one of many conditions or structural abnormalities when they are symptom free (especially if the condition the person is presenting with is and has always been their normal structural variance).

So, I guess with all the stuff that has spilled out of my “mouth” the take home point should be that when one engages in a running activity on a regular basis, the individual should have the shoes measured to prevent joint issues, as well as checking to see if the individual is headed down that path already.

Is that clear, or did I stray from your question too much?

Your post certainly brings home the complexity of the problem. I really made it was simple by only mentioning a couple simple irregularities as if they were isolated, rather than interconnected, symptoms.

But if I’m not mistaken, my question still stands: Do you think that shoes are the best way to prevent joint problems, or do you think that this complex of gait and postural anomalies ostensibly caused by irregularities would best be treated by just teaching people better running form?

I am leery of ALWAYS ascribing deficiencies to individual anatomical anomalies, because it is often the case that people who succesfully perform an activity are not examined to see if they have anatomical anomalies, and so it never becomes clear whether or not anatomical anomalies are indeed the cause of a problem.

For example, according to one Dr. Sarno, low back pain is often diagnosed as having been caused by degenerated vertebral discs or subtle vertebral anomalies, but all people over the age of 20 have degenerated discs, and many people have subtle anomalies but do not experience back pain.

[quote]the MaxX wrote:
This is actually somewhat of a complicated issue.

First, arches have to be considered and whether or not they are impacting anything along the rest of the chain (all the joingts of the foot, ankle, knee, hip, lower back. One needs to inspect the heel (calcaneal varus/valgus), navicular height, tibial alignment, wear patterns on the shoe, as well as normal gait deviations. These are all considered when people present to a medical professional with pain.

Now the tough part is deciding whether or not these deviations cause a problem, whether it is simply one thing causing the other problems, or there is a problem caused by all of the aforementioned varibales. Even harder is having to decide how to appropriately decide the tendencies an individual may have towards one of many conditions or structural abnormalities when they are symptom free (especially if the condition the person is presenting with is and has always been their normal structural variance).

So, I guess with all the stuff that has spilled out of my “mouth” the take home point should be that when one engages in a running activity on a regular basis, the individual should have the shoes measured to prevent joint issues, as well as checking to see if the individual is headed down that path already.

Is that clear, or did I stray from your question too much?[/quote]