If you are a runner reading this, there is a good chance that your run today involved ½ inch high heels. Now I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t wear heels when I run!!” Unfortunately, you most likely do. The majority of the running shoe industry designs their shoes to be a half inch higher in the heel than in the forefoot. This measurement is often called the drop or the heel-toe offset of a shoe.
This begs the questions, why would running shoe manufacturers ever do such a thing? The most common reason is attributed to legendary Nike founder and Oregon coach, Bill Bowerman. The original thought behind the design is that runners need to lengthen their stride if they want to go faster (true, but the length needs to come out behind the body). Bowerman assumed the best way to do this would be by increasing the cushioning in the heel so runners could extend out farther with their leading leg. However, he was unaware of the high impact forces and impact transients that are associated with heel striking as well as several other downfalls of the design. There are little, to no benefits of running in a half-inch, high heeled shoe.
So what dangers does being in a half-inch high heel pose?
1. It puts the body in an unnatural posture with increased pressure on the lower back, shoulders, and ball of foot as pictured below.
2. It encourages a heel striking gait, which puts extra stress on the joints, soft tissues, back, and neck.
3. Shortened calf muscles and achilles tendon, robbing the body of natural spring.
Major offenders of the half-inch high heel are:
- Brooks Traditional Shoes
- All Asics Trainers with the exception of 2 shoes
- Most all Nike Traditional Shoes
- New Balance Traditional Shoes
- Mizuno Traditional Shoes
Brands that feature only level platform shoes (at most 8mm offset):
- Newton Running
- Pearl Izumi
- HOKA One One
- Vibram Five Fingers
Some of the major offenders have recently come out with lines featuring level shoes:
- Mizuno Evo Series
- New Balance Minimus Series
- Nike Free Series
- Brooks Pure Series
So next time you go in to pick up a new pair of running shoes, make sure to ask the store employee to try on some level platform shoes to at least give it a try. Don’t be afraid of brands you may not have heard of or seen in the major magazines, many times these are the best manufacturers who focus more on principles as opposed to the bottom line profits and market share.
I know I only alluded to the heel-striking debate in this post, but will be sure to tackle it in the upcoming posts. Get ready!
Always in Stride,