You really want to get the right shoes–the ones that fit best, feel best, and give you the support you need. The first two of those factors are perfectly reasonable but that third one, the question of support… that’s where you’re going to get into trouble.
According to the excellent American College of Sports Medicine 2014 Running Shoe Guidelines, which were developed after a review of all the research on running shoes and injury, running shoes are supposed to complement a strong foot, NOT to do the work of the foot.
In fact, they go on to say that no runner should have shoes with motion control or stability components. Fundamentally these are running form issues, not foot issues. You shouldn’t be fixing them with special support in your shoes any more than you should be fixing an imbalanced stride by running with crutches.
Really we’re talking about not just a strong foot, but a strong and well-coordinated body. What your feet do or don’t do in running is a result of how you’re moving across them. In other words, it’s a result of how you’re moving your whole body.
Running form (or technique) is where you need to be making improvements if your feet aren’t working as they should. And you should get running shoes that don’t get in the way of good running form. The ACSM Guidelines will help you do that.
In a nutshell, the four criteria they give are:
I explain all of this more in-depth in the video below.
(This was originally a livestream and the recording seems to skip a few times at the beginning. Fortunately once I really get into the material at the 2-minute mark the replay smooths out.)
If you have trouble finding shoes that meet the ACSM criteria, I recommend booking a fitting appointment via Zoom with Two Rivers Treads, then ordering from their website. They have a great selection–all their shoes meet the ACSM criteira–and, as the nation’s first minimalist running store, and they are as knowledgeable as it’s possible to be. I don’t get any particular benefit from recommending them, other than the knowledge I’ve referred you to a place I trust.
IMPORTANT: If you’ve been running in shoes with more than a 6mm drop, and/or with stability or motion control, you’ll need a gradual transition process to get into the shoes I describe here. And it will be worth it! Spend two years getting shoes with progressively a lower drop, decreasing by no more than 4mm at a time, and work on your form so that you’re addressing any foot function issues the way they’re meant to be addressed: as whole-body movement issues.
To get started working on your form, including the critical movements of your pelvis that stop overpronation, start with the free one-week Mind Your Running Challenge.
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Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.