Running Shoes That Help Improve Running Form
Running shoes have changed a lot since Northern Runner opened it’s doors in 1998. The biggest change in recent years is newer running companies like, ON, Altra, and Scott redefining running shoe construction and function, with a huge focus on encouraging a more efficient form. Key aspects include; promoting good posture, allowing your feet and toes to function more naturally and employing stabilising muscles (and more) in the quest for better form.
Space to Move
Your foot is your body’s first shock absorber. It also stabilises and offers propulsion. In order for this natural process to work well we now know your shoes need to have enough room and shouldn’t be too soft. This is because when your foot touches the floor it should ‘know’ and naturally react to hitting something hard and spread out to absorb the shock whilst stabilising you.
As your foot spreads out it is stretching your planta fascia, which is like a big elastic band on the bottom of your foot that springs your foot back off the floor. You should have enough room in your running shoes so that your foot can function even when warm and slightly expanded, as it will do on your longer runs.
A lot of people’s feet have been squeezed into too-narrow and too-small shoes and this has led to the bones of the feet getting stuck together and not functioning correctly. You should be able to flex and move your feet like you do your fingers. You should have gaps between your toes and when you balance on one foot you should be able to see the foot spread out. To get this movement back and improve your foot strength you can use them to pick things up. Starting with something like a golf ball and progressing to a tea towel. This exercise can easily be done whilst watching television!
Recruiting More Muscles
On is a, now award winning, running shoe brand from Switzerland. Customers can immediately see that they are different as they have lugs that protrude from the bottom of the shoe, a trademarked design known as CloudTecTM. These lug compress and supply the runner with cushioning, then immediately provide a (very handy!) spring in your step. They also give the runner more feel as each lug moves independently as do all the bones you have in your feet. This feedback allows you to subconsciously hit the floor with less force and also teaches you to run more squarely. Over time this helps improve posture.
On shoes also have a low drop aka heel to forefoot. Which means that there isn’t a chunky heel stuck to the bottom of your foot to encourage you to heel strike. The lower heel encourages more of a mid-foot strike which allows your foot to function at its best. This doesn’t mean you have to try to run differently in On shoes, your body will respond to the feedback in the shoe and over a long period of running in them your running skill will improve. Like all running brands On makes a range of shoes for different terrains and different levels of support.
Zero DropTM Great Results
Altra shoes place the heel and forefoot the same distance from the ground, known as Zero Drop. This is to encourage a mid-foot landing and the better alignment and subsequent posture that comes with it. If you aren’t used to running in Zero Drop shoes i.e. your running shoe heel is chunky on appearance, then it is advisable to do a short transition, alternating the shoes with your old ones and starting with very short runs.
Zero Drop doesn’t mean uncomfortable and Altra offer several cushioning levels. The more cushioned shoes like the Altra Paradigm or Altra Olympus are the easiest to get used to. Whilst there is a lot of cushioning in these shoes, they aren’t overly soft so your foot still ‘knows’ it has hit the ground and will function accordingly. Northern Runner has sold Altra for about 4 years now and we have seen runners go from plodding along in structured cushioning shoes (aiding overpronation) to springing along in a pair of Altra’s. These changes don’t take place immediately but, gradually over a period of time.
Altra running shoes are also quite distinct as they have what they describe as a Foot Shaped Toe Box, which is a comparatively very wide, rounded toe box (front of the shoe). As mentioned above, the extra room is there to encourage your foot to function naturally i.e. by spreading out, splaying the toes and allowing them to absorb the impact and propel you.
Encouragement by Design
Scott have developed a running shoe that will improve your posture no matter which part of your foot hits the floor first. The outsole of the shoes are slightly curved and the cushioning is responsive, not soft and soggy. There’s comfort but as you hit the floor you don’t sink into the cushioning. Instead the shoe keeps your foot moving backwards, which teaches the runner to concentrate on lifting their foot up and keeps them up right in a good running posture. When customs try these shoes on the corridor at the back of the shop you can see this postural improvement straight away.
Many customers say “they feel lighter than the other shoes” but they aren’t. This lighter feeling comes from the runner not sinking into a soft cushioned mid sole, which stops them moving forward and forces them to push off (try running on foam!). Softer cushioned shoes often lead to runners leaning forward at the waist ‘dragging’ themselves along, rather than floating over the ground like the top runners do.
It is a good idea to alternate your shoes, particularly if you run regularly. This stimulates the feet slightly differently and cuts down on overuse injuries. If you purchase the two pairs of shoes at different times then you will also be able to feel when one pair has done too many miles and should be replaced. This is far better than waiting until you get a niggle or two.
For more advice please do not hesitate to call us on 0191 2614 322 or Contact Us.