Why Do Shoes Cause Pain?
Feet are an incredibly complex body part, in combination with the ankle, knees, hips, core, and back. They perform an incredibly complex function for shock absorption.
We used to run before people had running shoes, and even before we had shoes at all. How did we manage to run? Could this help us to understand the right running shoes for long-distance, especially when running causes pain?
Feet are very intricate. The arch for example is an incredible example of suspension. The arch flexes when we land on the foot, to absorb some of the impact with the ground.
If you were to run barefoot, the foot would roll from the outer edge of the foot inwards. This movement is a sort of “suspension system” (similar to supination). The bio-mechanics of the body are self-tuned to the state of the joints, muscles and so on.
If a system is out of balance, the body self-adjusts. That adjustment will result in different muscles being used, which may cause discomfort or pain.
The self-adjusting nature of the body may mean that a muscle or joint has extra force applied to it. This extra force will mean the muscle may get exhausted quicker. The exhausted muscle will then take longer to recover. This can lead to injury, soreness and pain.
Do Orthotic Insoles help?
Not a lot is known about how a shoe should support a person to improve their kinematics. Kinematics is how the skeleton reacts to movement. It is known that two identical orthotic inserts for different people will have different results. The evidence is showing that they have little effect on kinematics. The changes that result are often shifting work from one set of muscles and/or joints to different ones.
Shoes may contribute to this unbalancing of the bio-mechanical systems. These systems may be “reset” by orthotics. Instead why not look for shoes that do not unbalance your bio-mechanical systems?
Orthotics have been shown in studies to not really correct the problems, but to cause a weakening of the muscles. The orthotics make the body use other muscles, which means the one previously being used may be used less.
Running Shoe Arch Support
Arch support can prevent the arch from working as intended. That support makes the foot weaker, so it is unable to perform that feature. The insole of a shoe may keep the foot in place. Because the foot is held in place, the toes do not have room to move or the need to.
If the toes cannot spread out, they cannot as easily assist with balancing. They also do not have the ability to reduce the maximum force on the foot. The spreading of the toes will work with the arch to stabilize, and support.
If you already have existing issues or pain, you may need to deal with these symptoms differently.
An interesting thing happens when you have less of a drop on your show (not necessarily less cushioning either) There is a greater distance from when the front part of your foot hits the ground, and the heel does in shoes with a smaller drop.
What this does is it allows the muscles in the back of the leg to be stretched more than those with a greater drop. This could be the difference between finishing a run and your calves / achilles being sore, and recovering quickly to being pain free.
I have a pair of runners that are highly cushioned, and I bought for long distance runs, to reduce wear and tear. These have an 8mm drop. If I run too long in these my calves, and achilles tendon get tight, and I can’t get rid of it with stretching.
If I move to what I consider the best running shoe for speed, these also have a 5mm drop, and I can finish the same run without tight calves, and tight achilles. I do notice the stretch as I warm up, then the discomfort disappears. To I rotate between the shoes.
I also have some trail shoes with a 4mm drop, and almost zero cushion in them. They are even more effective as “resetting” by feet and legs. I believe this to be because they are quite a minimal shoe, quite close to barefoot running.
A drop is the difference between the height of the heel and toe.
If your running style has you hitting the ground heal first, the drop may have a smaller, or no benefit for you. The greater stretch should still be present although.