How to Manage Achilles Tendinopathy
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Performance Shoes: A tool to help us run – Part 2: What do you look for?
June 20, 2016

Performance Shoes: A Tool To Help Us Run, Part 1 – Our feet

Firstly, our feet must be the focus of this topic.

Our feet are an incredibly well designed hard-working part of our body and they come with inbuilt stability, shock-absorption and a fancy neuromuscular control system.

We can gain many performance benefits from

  • strengthening our feet and
  • improving proprioception and our running technique.

We each have a unique musculoskeletal system which can respond and adapt to the stresses we place it under. So when it comes to selecting running shoes it is crucial that we choose the right shoes to allow our feet to do their job.


What is proprioception and how do we improve this?




















It is the body’s ability to sense the relative position of parts of the body and the strength of an effort being used in movement. We can improve our proprioception via training using specific drills, such as standing on one leg with our eyes closed and improving skills whilst doing this like twisting to the side.


How do shoes impact the way we run?


Running with shoes, in comparison to barefoot, will change our:

  • Cadence,
  • Stride length
  • Contact style
  • Kinematics: our motion
  • And Economy
  • Barefooted runners have a reduced step length, increased cadence, and a forefoot strike

But shoes are a necessary tool for running in almost all situations to protect our feet from rough surfaces and injury.


Which features of a shoe influence our running dynamics?

Our running dynamics (the way our body moves) are influenced specifically by: the midsole stiffness and the geometry of a shoe.

This highlights just how important it is to be running in a shoe with the least negative impact on our running. Studies show that incorrect footwear choices can exacerbate or cause lower extremity dysfunction, while ideal footwear can help in prevention of or even speed healing due to decreased tissue stress on impaired structures.


What are the best features healthy runners NEED in a shoe?

Ultimately we need to teach the foot what to do and make sure the shoes do not get in the way, but works in sync with it. Ill cover 4 points that a performance shoe needs:

1. Minimal heel to toe drop: it most cases it is best to avoid a high heel to toe drop. But it takes time to adapt to a lower drop shoe: Research shows that is takes around 10 weeks before we see increases in flexibility, but mobility can be more quickly improved with soft tissue release. If you are going from a 12 to an 8mm drop it’s not a big difference and would not present a risk of injury but going from a 12mm to a 0 drop shoe is a huge difference and would place great strain on the ST, hence risk of injury.



2. Good fit specifically in the forefoot width and length; The shoes should match the shape of our foot to ensure good proprioception and stability from the foot. 2 good hints are

  • Insole test: remove the insole from the shoe, stand on it, allow the foot to splay naturally and observe for a good fit. If your foot splays over the innersole this indicates the shoe is too small.
  • Purchase late in the afternoon- to allow for room when your foot swells during the day.



3. Light weight Footwear needs to be built from quality, firm and durable light-weight material which improves our performance via improving economy.

4. Mid-sole stiffness as this has a big impact on our proprioception. Too much cushioning will change the way our body prepares us for landing and will prevent our bio feedback. We need to be able to actively gain position sense during ground contact. Functional stability of the foot and muscle firing patterns are altered and compromised when feet are in too soft an environment.


One key to remember is: Better proprioception via training = better muscle firing which will = better balance leading to performance improvement.




Holly Khan
Holly Khan
Holly Khan is the principle senior podiatrist at Central Podiatry. As a passionate and competitive triathlete she has focused her skills on becoming a specialist in musculoskeletal sport injuries of the lower half of the body. Holly has thrived on freeing people of pain since commencing her podiatry profession in 2008 and is dedicated to continuing to improve her skills to gain top treatment results.

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