What are the best shoes to train in?

Being a trainer and a coach I get asked this question a lot. The answer is intended to be easy but due to many complications it usually is not. My personal opinion is that we were all intended to be barefoot. Just like every other part of our muscular system, the muscles of the feet are designed to be given a constant supply of stimulus in order to maintain their normal function.

The act of wearing shoes means you are limiting the amount of stimulus to the muscles of the feet since the shoe itself is now handling much of the work for them. The more a shoe says it accomplishes (stabilization, arch support, pronation, supination etc.) the less the feet themselves need to work in accordance with the natural movement of our gait pattern.

picture from orthotic group.com

1superflexI have seen an significant increase in clients that are coming in wearing orthotics in their shoes. This is another example of the medical community forgetting to ask the question of why. If someone needs orthotics then it must have been determined that their foot is not planting on the ground correctly as they walk. Rather than assess the situation they assume the problem is in the feet so they simply try to change the feet. The problem with this is that now they have not corrected the problem, they have tried to fix it without addressing the real issue.

This is like having a flat tire because you drove over a nail and rather than fix the tire and remove the source of the problem you just spray one of those flat tire cans into it. You know those cans of compressed chemical that goes into the tire, fills it up and tries to stop the leak. It may temporarily work but sooner or later the real problem is going to resurface.

For all of you in orthotics I wish I could train you. Someday soon we will have a program built for you. In the meantime try doing the workouts we have provided in the free section of this blog. Specifically this workout.

Now back to the question of what shoes should you train in. First try to be barefoot as often as you can. This comes with the obvious risk of kicking door jams so I recommend trying to go out to a local sports field and walking or running around a bit.

For the shoe you want one to be as neutral as possible. In other words a shoe that enables your foot to still move as if it were barefoot. If you could have a shoe that provided a decent level of protection to enable you to walk around without the risk of cuts and scrapes while still making the muscles of the feet stay active would be the best case scenario. 

The shoe that I have worn that is the closest to this is the Nike Freenike-free. It provides protection while still allowing your feet or muscles of the feet to be capable of receiving a large amount of stimulus. 

If you have not had the chance to won one yet, take my advice and try a pair out. I have owned several and despite the fact they wore out fairly quickly in comparison to other shoes, they were worth it for the increased training advantage you receive.

2 Comments on this post

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  1. Should you Wear Orthotics? wrote:

    […] posted on this awhile back but thought it would be good to revisit it since it continues to come up so […]

    July 8th, 2009 at 5:54 pm
  1. Ben said:

    I was gonna try to get some frees soon. They look very comfortable.

    May 9th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

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