I love a big, cushy running shoe as much as the next gal who hates running but decides to “get really into it” every six months. So soft! Like walking on Jello. Bad news, though: While shoes with super-cushy soles feel good, they’re affecting our form in undesired ways, according to a new series of studies highlighted by the New York Times.
The thick-soled running shoe has largely replaced the minimalist, webbed-foot-looking model popular in recent years, which was initially praised for promoting a more “natural” gait. (Studies eventually showed that minimalist shoes offered runners no benefits over standard models and in some cases increased injuries.)
Now, it seems, we’ve gone too far in the other direction — researchers have found that amateur runners who wear maximalist running shoes land harder on their feet and pronate more, rolling their ankles inward when taking off. A second study found these habits continued over a six-week period, meaning that runners were unable to course-correct for the shoes’ effect on their form.
J. Hannigan, an assistant professor of kinesiology at San Jose State University, told the Times, “If you extend a shoe’s height, it will tend to be more unstable.” Thicker soles contribute to more ankle movement, which could become problematic. Though none of the studies cited tracked rates of injury (and those studies were small), it seems unlikely that the shoes are reducing injury, and may even make things worse.
So before you pick up the most humongous running shoes you can find, wait. It might be worth visiting a specialty running shoe store to find out what works for your feet, whether you’re a regular runner or thinking about maybe, eventually, one day embarking on a light, mind-clearing jog.