Thursday, March 31, 2011

What running shoes should you wear? The myths busted.

February 17th, 2011 by Ian Griffiths
Never ones to be scared about throwing the cat in amongst the pigeons we asked Ian Griffiths from to give us his educated opinion on the prescription of running shoes. In an extensive and thoroughly researched post Iain busts a few myths and concludes that current methods for running shoe recommendation are flawed. As result we will be reviewing our running shoe recommendation process. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter…
Myths busted:
  • Pronation is not consistently predictive of injury
  • Individuals should not all be aligned similarly. ‘Normal’ alignment is subject specific
  • Foot shape is NOT predictive of dynamic function.  The wet foot test is nonsense.
  • There is very little research investigating the relationship between running shoes and injury prevention.  Stiffer midsoles do reduce pronation speed and magnitude, but in doing so may increase vertical loading rates. Running shoe ‘cushioning’ may be a myth
Following a media frenzy in 2010, the concept of running barefoot came under rather close scrutiny.  With respect to its potential long term risks/benefits the research is not yet available, so for many professionals the jury is still out and they remain healthily skeptical.  However these same professionals generally recommend road running shoes based on a model which has been used for decades.  At this point in time it seems only fair that this is re-visited and also put under the same scrutiny, with some of the available research relevant to running shoes looked at in closer detail.  This blog aims to do just this; to discuss how road running shoes are currently ‘prescribed’, and to see if there is any rationale for this current practice.


Road running shoes can be generally split into 3 groups; motion control shoes, stability shoes, and neutral/cushioned shoes.  Historically we have all been told that there are 3 main foot types (what a fantastic coincidence I hear you cry…);  the ‘flat’ or ‘pronated’ foot, the ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’ foot, and the ‘high arched’ or ‘supinated’ foot.
1. Flat/Pronated foot = Motion control running shoe
2. Normal/Neutral foot = Stability running shoe
3. High/Supinated foot = Neutral running shoe

It is not entirely clear where this model of shoe selection came from.  It’s conception may have been based upon the work of Colonel Harris and Major Beath, who performed an Army foot survey back in 1947, and whilst doing so invented an ingenious new method of assessing footprints.1 It was in 1980 that ‘The Running Shoe book’ showed the first picture (as far as I’m aware) of the three arch types and how these may relate to running shoe selection.2 Despite the lack of certainty regarding its origins, pretty much every edition of Runners World magazine printed since has regurgitated this information, as have most running shoe shop assistants, not to mention numerous websites (including those of many major shoe companies and sports injury professionals. We are even guilty of this at  For several decades runners have therefore been advised to check their footprints (often easily assessed by observing the mark a wet foot leaves behind) and pick the corresponding shoe.  They are told this ensures ideal alignment and minimises injury risk.  Simples.  

Or is it?

Before we continue take a look at the following foot (a freeze frame during running):
Have a think about what running shoe you may recommend for this individual based on the visual information you have.  Now read on.
To identify whether the well known model of shoe selection is appropriate we need to break it down and analyse the preconceptions it is based upon.  These are:
(A) Pronation is consistently predictive of injury.
(B) All individuals should be aligned identically (i.e. ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’).
(C) The wet foot test (i.e. foot shape) is predictive of dynamic function.
(D) Assuming preconceptions (A), (B) and (C) are correct, running shoe technology will actually achieve what it claims to.
If these points are not true or backed up by research, then the entire model falls apart.  So, let’s take a look at these preconceptions one at a time.

(A) Pronation is consistently predictive of injury.

Running stores and magazines seem to be fixated on pronation.  Most shoes are marketed with respect to how much ‘pronation control’ they offer.  Why is this?  Well, it has generally been thought that a more pronated foot type is a significant risk factor for injury.  However the fact is that there are very few prospective studies which have actually shown this, with numerous studies actually concluding that there is no association between foot type and injury.3-9 Two studies have even shown that a pronated foot is actually a protective factor against injury.10,11
The point I’m trying to make is that the relationship between foot mechanics and lower limb injury is still not as well understood as we think (or as we would like).  But what we do know is that functioning in a pronated position does not mean that you will necessarily get injured.  In fact the experimental evidence suggests you are much more likely to get injured from training errors12 or from dysfunctional hip musculature.13
Verdict = Pronation is not consistently predictive of injury

(B) All individuals should be aligned identically (i.e. ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’).

When referring to ‘ideal’ alignment what is actually meant?  What exactly is ‘normal’ when it comes to the alignment of the lower extremity?  Answer: We don’t know.  The word ‘normal’ is probably an inappropriate word to apply to the human body.  As far as normal foot alignment or mechanics is concerned, the normal (average) foot type reported in sampled populations is actually mildly to moderately pronated.14-17 So why then is the main aim of the current running shoe selection model to align runners to ‘neutral’ (i.e. the foot sitting perpendicular to the horizontal ground)?
When we consider that the subtalar joint (the joint where pronation and supination occurs) has variable anatomy 18,19 it seems obvious that function will not be the same for everyone, and therefore that the ‘optimum’ position to be in would differ from person to person.  Unsurprisingly, differences in foot alignment between individuals is reported to be high.20
It still amazes me that in a world where human variation is so vast in almost every aspect of our being, that when it comes to running there is a suggestion that we should all be in one particular alignment or position.  The reality is that each of us most likely has own preferred alignment – a subject specific ‘normal’.
Verdict = Individuals should not all be aligned similarly. ‘Normal’ alignment is subject specific.

(C) The wet foot test (i.e. foot shape) is predictive of dynamic function.

The association between static foot measures and dynamic function has been well researched in the literature.  Several different methods of assessing foot shape, arch height and foot posture in static standing have been investigated, with the conclusions generally being that there is no association between these measures and dynamic function (what the foot does when we actually run).21-25
The work which really puts the wet foot test out of business was completed by a team of researchers from the US army over the last year or so.  Their prospective studies assigned running shoes based on plantar foot shape prior to basic military training, and investigated if this influenced injury risk at all.  They showed that assigning running shoes based on the footprint shape had little influence on injury risk in Air Force Basic Training,26 Marine Corps Basic Training,27 and Army Basic Combat Training.28
Verdict = Foot shape is NOT predictive of dynamic function.  The wet foot test is nonsense.

(D) Running shoe technology will actually achieve what it claims to.

The technology that shoes provide can be generalised into 2 main areas.  They offer cushioning, and market this as essential for the dampening of the high impacts associated with running, and they offer increased durometer (stiffer/harder) midsoles which are aimed at controlling or reducing pronation.  These technologies have been called into question before, with some researchers suggesting that the protected environment a modern running shoe provides will diminish sensory feedback, resulting in inadequate impact moderating behaviour and actually serve to increase injury risk.29,30
A 2010 study concluded that the prescription of shoes with elevated cushioned heels and pronation control systems tailored to an individuals foot type was not evidence based31 and another very recent piece of research suggested this approach was overly simplistic and potentially injurious.32 How did the latter study come to this conclusion? Well to very briefly summarise: every single runner in their study who had been classified as having a ‘highly pronated’ foot type and was subsequently put into a motion control shoe reported an injury during a 13 week half marathon training programme.  Let me repeat that – highly pronated feet that were put into motion control shoes resulted in injury.  Yet that is exactly what the current shoe selection model suggests.  Let’s go back to the video gait analysis snapshot..
Given what you have read so far, what shoe would you recommend this person now?  Has it changed from earlier?

Back to the running shoe research.  Numerous studies agree that shoes with softer midsoles (cushioned/neutral shoes) result in greater pronation values, and shorter times to reach maximum pronation i.e. they make individuals pronate more, and pronate quicker.33-36 Does this sound bad to you? [If so go back and read the research which refutes preconception (A)].  Most of these studies also concluded that harder/stiffer midsoles (such as those found in stability and motion control shoes) significantly decrease the speed and magnitude of pronation.  Some of these shoes now also have a slight varus tilt (they are higher on the inside of the heel than they are on the outside).  Research has also shown that this decreases foot level pronation.37,38 (Remember these studies are just investigating kinematics/alignment and not injury).
So ‘anti-pronatory’ shoes with stiffer midsoles are actually doing what they promise to.  The problem is we don’t know whether we need them to do it for us or not.  And as an aside, varus posting/tilting was shown in one study to increase tibial shock and vertical loading rates.39 (Is this perhaps why all those injuries occurred in the motion control shoes in the aforementioned study?)

Finally, let’s not forget cushioning. That must reduce the amount of force we are subjected to when running – right?  Wrong. As shoe cushioning decreases runners modify their patterns to maintain constant external loads.40 However, it is thought to contribute to comfort, and this seems to be the most important variable on which to select sports shoes, which we will talk about shortly.
Verdict = There is very little research investigating the relationship between running shoes and injury prevention.  Stiffer midsoles do reduce pronation speed and magnitude, but in doing so may increase vertical loading rates.  Running shoe ‘cushioning’ may be a myth.


It seems that the current model upon which running shoes are recommended/chosen is erroneous.  Its foundations are based upon preconceptions which have been shown to be false.  Due to significant within-species variation it is ridiculous to try and align people identically, (and to aim to do so in a pre-selected ‘normal’ position which is highly unlikely to be ‘normal’ for most individuals is potentially injurious).  Shoes do seem to generally achieve what they claim to.  However, our understanding of whether they actually need to achieve these variables (and who would benefit from each variable) is poor at present.
And so, the current method of being recommended a shoe still continues (and I imagine it will for some time)Why?
1.     Very few people realise it is erroneous.
2.     At the moment we do not have anything to replace it with.
3.     It is fantastically simple.
4.     People don’t generally like change.

The future

Moving forward, a much better model would be to focus on identifying an optimum midsole stiffness for an individual (which may be variable) combined with their optimum alignment/movement patterns for a given activity (i.e. the position in which their injury risk is minimised and their performance is maximised, irrespective of its visual alignment). However, much more research is required before we fully understand how to clinically achieve this.
The concept of intelligent shoes (adidas tried with the adidas_1 above but failed commercially) which modify their midsole characteristics depending on the step by step requirements and effectively ‘tune’ themselves to the wearer and the surface they are on may sound like something from Back to the Future, but it is probably only a matter of time before we start seeing this sort of advancement in our running shoe technology.  However, it doesn’t change the fact that we need a greater understanding of injury risk factors, and that these are still likely to be subject (and activity) specific.


So where does this leave the runner choosing a pair of shoes in 2011? There are many choices. Neutral? Stability? Motion Control? Barefoot? Hopefully by now you realise that there is no simple answer.
All decisions could and should be based on one main factor in my opinion: comfort. Believe it or not comfort has been linked to injury frequency reduction41 and is thought to be the most important variable for sports shoes, and a focal point for any future sports shoe development.42 We all know that comfort is subjective and subject specific43 so with that in mind only the wearer can confidently choose the most appropriate shoe for themselves.  [Be wary of the shop assistant/Podiatrist who tells you the exact make and model shoe which is best for you]. What one person finds comfortable will differ greatly from another; perhaps this is why some people find that stiff supportive shoes work best for them, and others discovered that barefoot running was the answer to their long history of injury woes.
As most runners know, it can often be a little bit of trial and error with regard to finding the ‘right’ shoe.  Once you’ve found what works for you (or if you have found it already) then don’t change it.
Irrespective of the advice given in the shoe shop/magazines/Podiatrists office about your ‘pronation’; on current evidence you are just as well off picking a shoe based on comfort alone, and subscribing to a course of Pilates and adopting sensible training habits.
P.S How are you getting on with your decision on what shoes to recommend for this guy?
If you have any questions please just let me know below.

For a full set of references please refer to
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HappyFeet - Be Happy. Just Run

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Twilight Ultra Challenge 2011 26 - 27 Mar 2011

Twilight Ultramarathoner Hazel  : " Awesome run last night/this morning!! Great job Ben!! and your support crew was just fantastic!! This has gotta be one of the most well organised races :))"  :-)

Jamie Pang : " Ultra runners are the best people to have around - down to earth, funny, unassuming, possessing mental resilience beyond belief. There's almost a palpable spirit of camaraderie in ultra runners that you don't see elsewhere. Kudos to all Conquerors and hats of to Ben Swee and his fantastic team! "

" I went into a Ultra Marathon blindly! Dont :-)" .. Interesting Sharing by Karen Loh

"An ultra is all about enduring. However your techniques, training, strategies are, you’ve to accept that pain is the common denominator. Whether you disassociate or the type to meditate on the painful sensation coursing through your feet and legs, an ultra runner needs to be able to get along with pain. I wouldn’t say that you need to be a masochist or pain junkie but you need to be comfortable in dealing with it." Another Interesting by TUC Conqueror Jamie Pang . :-)

HappyFeet - Be Happy. Just Run

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Run Like Hell - Rifles Range Trail Run 20Mar2011

K3 : "Run Like Hell comprise motivated people who always push the limits either mentally or physically... it is a hallmark of people who strive to excel in whatever they do..."

HappyFeet - Be Happy. Just Run

Sunday, March 20, 2011

HappyFeet's Sole&Soul Run - " Greeting the "Super Moon". 19Mar2011

Tonight the moon will be closer to the earth than it has been for 18 years.

Scientists quoted by AP on Saturday predicted the 'SuperMoon' would appear 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than a typical full moon when at its peak.

Pictures of the SuperMoon from around the world @ THIS LINK

HappyFeet - Be Happy. Just Run

Operation NightHawk 2011: The First Night - 18Mar2011

Operation NightHawk 2011: The First Night

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Scott Jurek, the Ultimate Ultramarathoner.

 Scott Jurek - website

World renowned ultramarathon champion, power vegan, running coach, physical therapist, passionate plant-based cook, and star of NY Times bestseller "Born To Run".. FaceBook Page.

Scott on barefoot running:
·         Gave a disclaimer prior to talking about barefoot running- he works for a running store and is sponsored by Brooks. 
·         He believes it is an excellent training tool to teach form and technique.
·         He also believes it should be done with caution.  He expressed some concern about the explosion of popularity of barefoot running because people were doing too much too soon.
·         Didn’t think it was good for trail racing (at least for the really fast runners) due to rugged terrain.  When he talked about his race pace, I agree with him. J
·         The Tarahumara had no interest in VFFs or barefoot running. 
·         Helps build proprioception (position of feet in relation to body… think balance) skills
Scott on modern running  shoes
·         The build-up of soles is bad, more minimal shoe is ideal because it places the foot closer to the ground, less chance of injury.
·         Sees shoe companies making a transition to minimalist philosophy in the very near future (mostly in response to barefoot/VFF phenomenon)
·         Talked about the need for muscles being used for cushioning, not shoes (in response to question regarding his thoughts on “spring” technology in shoes).
Scott on Form/ Injuries
·         Mentioned research that indicated 90 strides/minute good, 95 strides best… most runners stride too slow, causes over-striding.
·         Midfoot strike is superior (though he did use a heel strike on occasion on the run)
·         Run relaxed
·         Weight training is essential- running does not strengthen muscles (he’s a physical therapist), cause of many injuries
·         When rehabbing injuries, we should continue doing exercises after recovered as a means of preventing future injuries

HappyFeet - Be Happy. Just Run

Saturday, March 05, 2011

HappyFeet's F4T : Confucius says....

By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.

He who learns but does not think, is lost! 

He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.

It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

Look at the means which a man employs, consider his motives, observe his pleasures. A man simply cannot conceal himself!

Never contract friendship with a man that is not better than thyself.
Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.

(born around 551 B.C.) was a Chinese thinker and philosopher.

Extracted from 

HappyFeet - Be Happy. Just Run

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Essentials of Barefoot Running.

Vibram's 6-ounce FiveFingers Bikila  
Vibram's 6-ounce FiveFingers Bikila (Photo by Inga Hendrickson) Back to Basics
there are a lot more dudes chugging down the trail or sidewalk in those foot-glove thingies these days, well, it's because there are. Ever since the 2009 publication of Christopher McDougall's bestselling barefoot-running manifesto, Born to Run, which profiles the sandal-wearing runners of Mexico's Tarahumara tribe, the long-simmering barefoot (and nearly barefoot) running movement has exploded. This past year, Vibram sold $50 million worth of its barefootlike FiveFingers "shoes," a five-fold increase from 2009, and this spring nearly every major running-shoe company has a barefoot-inspired line coming to market. While these models account for just a sliver of the $2.4 billion running-shoe market, some retailers estimate that minimalist models could make up a quarter of all performance running shoes sold next year, and the once-groundbreaking notion that less shoe is better is driving the change.

Extracted from Outside Magazine, February 2011    By Brian Metzler
"Without a question, it's the biggest revolution we've ever experienced," says Curt Munson, owner of Michigan-based Playmakers, one of the country's top running retailers. "The whole running industry is evolving." This is a good thing. New research suggests that by helping you mimic the way a barefoot runner strides—that is, gently landing on your forefoot or midfoot—minimally padded shoes can make you faster and more efficient, improve your form, and theoretically reduce injuries. But there's one big caveat: a sudden switch from thickly to barely padded shoes is a terrible idea. What's gone missing in the rush to run like our ancestors is the fact that our modern lifestyles have left our feet pampered and ill-prepared to go bounding down the trail in sandal-like shoes. 
Any transition has to be gradual, careful, and calculated.
One reason you can't change your shoes and your stride overnight is that we've become a nation of heel strikers. The thickly cushioned shoes that helped usher in the running boom of the 1980s still dominate the market, accounting for the vast majority of all shoes sold. While they're really comfortable and make jogging less painful for new and heavier runners, their built-up heel pads and steep ramp angles (the interior slope from the heel down to the toe) all but force you to land on your heel, an unnatural motion that increases the shock waves going up the leg (by as much as 50 percent, according to one study, compared with runners who don't land on their heels).
"Shoes with higher heels encourage heel striking because your brain thinks it's OK to land that way," says Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, founder of Shepherdstown, West Virginia's Two Rivers Treads, the country's first store dedicated to minimalist running shoes. But it's not OK. Between 37 and 60 percent of all runners suffer overuse injuries every year, a rate similar to that of the late 1980s, despite 20 years of advancements in shoe technology.
Don't chuck your traditional training shoes out the window, though. There's still no hard evidence that minimalist shoes—and the more natural stride they promote—will lower your risk of injury. And abruptly switching to featherweights, or even just models that are lower to the ground and less padded, will only increase the odds of injury. "If you transition too quickly, you'll probably get hurt," says biomechanist Iain Hunter, an associate professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University. Even so, if you're like most runners, there's a good chance you're wearing more shoe than you need—and easing into a more sparsely padded one will almost certainly help improve your form and make you a faster, more efficient runner.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Fila Skeletoes Review ! Updates

 Updates 2 Mar 2011: Review Fila Skele-Toes - Four Toed Shoes
" A huge plus in the Skele-toes camp is that they can be had for $50-$60 — and they are coming out with kid's sizes. At the $55 price point, they're $25 cheaper than a pair of KSOs and almost half the price of any high-dollar FiveFingers. So if you're looking for some affordable toe shoes, the Skele-Toes are worth considering. On the other hand, if you want a more dynamic toe shoe, I think you'll be happier spending the extra money and getting a pair of VFFs.
At the end of the day I'm happy to see the Fila Skele-Toes enter the toe shoe market. Competition is wonderful. That said, Fila will have a tough time catching up to Vibram insomuch as figuring out the ins and outs of manufacturing fully functioning toe shoes. Maybe my blathering above will help point them in the right direction (emphasis on "maybe")."... 

Video Review — Fila Skele-Toes

 Source :
The Fila Skeletoes.. look similar to Vibram Five Fingers ?
They are certainly priced right at $59 for Men and Women and $49 for kids.

Under the Hood

In the photo above, the upper material looks like Neoprene, but it is not. Skeletoes are made of four-way stretch, two ply nylon. They have a bungee cord for ease of entry and velcro straps for a customized fit. They have a multi-purpose slip-resistant rubber outsole.
There are two things that really differentiate this product from Five Fingers:
  • The bottom sole of the Skeletoes do not cover the top of the toes as this might infringe on a Vibram patent.
  • Skeletoes incorporate what they call an EZ slide feature that combines the smallest two toes for ease of entry. For some people that have issues with their toes and can't wear Five Fingers, this feature alone might make the Skeletoes an attractive option. Our contact claims testing shows that Skeletoes were much easier to put on than Five Fingers.


The expected release date for the Fila Skeletoes is February 1st, 2011. Our friends over at Comet Shoes are taking orders now!

HappyFeet - Be Happy. Just Run

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Never too Old to Run Fast!

You are never too Old to RUN Fast!... DO Salutes her ! :-)
"Stay Focus... and Count our Blessings... Be Happy Just Run whenever or whatever... " :-)
60 meters, 29.86 seconds, 95 years old. Those are Ida Keeling's winning numbers. The Bronx-born grandma just set a new sprinting record for her age group, making her the world's fastest woman in her 90's. She first broke the record three years ago, after picking up a steady running habit at age 67. Her secret to longevity is twofold: eating breakfast foods for dinner and dinner foods for breakfast. Also exercising. At least the eating part is easy.

HappyFeet - Be Happy. Just Run


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