Our bodies are incredible structures. Women are beautiful, men are hunky, and babies smell good. But moreover, many parts of our anatomy have undergone significant evolution to be IDEAL in performing their roles throughout the course of our lives. Let's hone in on the foot:Now, look at the "arch" of the foot. The calcaneus bone (your heel) provides the rear anchor point and your phalanges (toes) flexibly provide the front. In between are no less than three articulations (joints) which can flex and stabilize throughout movement. Just like a bridge, the foot is meant to take the load in the middle of its structure, and to then dissipate that load across the length of the sole.
Now, take a look at many popular shoes, especially the lesser brands of sport shoes. There is a tremendous amount of foam and cushion in the rear of the foot, which encourages (or numbs) the striking of the foot at the heel. Similarly, the midfoot portion of these shoes often has a large degree of dense foam to absorb any amount of lateral movement, known as eversion or inversion (or pronation/supination). The danger of these highly padded areas arises by eliminating your body's line of communication from the foot to the brain. Just as an ungloved hand can more precisely determine the shape, feel, and temperature of an object than a gloved hand, an unshod foot is more adept at identifying the surface it trods upon.
Now, this is not to say you all should become barefoot runners. Much technique and patience is required to deftly and, in an injury-free manner, run barefoot for any length of time. But what we are emphasizing is utilizing footwear which COMPLEMENTS your foot's actions, rather than dull it. This means (in general) less of the cushioned and "motion control" styles, and more of the "neutral" conformation.
**Important note**: These recommendations should be paired with careful consideration and perhaps even consultation with a physical therapist or running coach. Improper technique combined with low-profile footwear can indeed result in injury, just as slicing tomatoes with a sharp knife and no technique can result in loss of digits.
We of Methow Endurance are firm endorsers of Scott Footwear. The running line of shoes in this US-born company are predominantly neutral, with appropriate and accurately-placed foam portions along the sole of the foot. Their T2C model (shown below) is a great road running model; we use it for our mid-distance runs on pavement and hard-packed dirt, and for recovery runs. The E-Ride Grip is a phenomenal trail shoe, with a specially-designed "e-ride" structure which encourages proper foot strike while keeping the sole closer to the ground for better technique. Explore these shoes and other models at Scott Shoes' website.Scott's T2C (above; men's version shown)
Scott's E-Ride Grip (men's version shown)
Feel free to contact Methow Endurance with any questions you have about footwear and technique, and be sure to sign up for either our seasonal clinic on running at Winthrop Physical Therapy, or for one of our specialty weekend camps this May (women only) or June (both genders!).