Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Do You Like More Cushion For The Pushin': Minimal Versus Max Cushioned Shoes

There are so many different ideas about what type of shoe is best for running.  Some people are into minimal shoes like the Vibram five finger, if you can call them shoes.  Other people like Hoka One One max cushioned shoes, which look almost like 70’s platform shoes.    Is tons of cushioning good or bad?   It really seems like it depends on whom you ask.  I have been asking around, reading tons of information, and have some personal experiences that I would like to share on the topic.  I am not an expert in the field. I’m just sharing the information that I have found, so please take that into account.

From my experience, picking the right shoe will vary based on what type of runner you are.  For longer runs or easy days, you might want a shoe with a little extra cushion.  A more minimal shoe might be more beneficial for speed workouts or races.  I have different types of shoes for the different types of workouts that I do.  

Some shoes have a bigger heel drop and some shoes have a low or zero drop, like the Altra shoes.  I read claims from Mizuno that their higher heel drop helped push people into the right form.  I felt like all it did was make me heel strike more.  I just picked up a pair of Altra Instinct 2’s last week and the zero drop really helps me land more mid to forefoot.  I will be reviewing the Altra Instinct 2’s later this week.  

The research that I have done stated that a max cushion shoe like the Hoka One One and some Altra shoes are great for people with foot issues (i.e. plantar fasciitis) and shin splints.  People with joint issues (i.e. hip and knee pain) as well as IT Band issues will benefit more from a minimal shoe.  I can attest to this from personal experience.  I had major IT Band issues and hip issues with my last half marathon training.  I was running in more of a cushioned shoe.  I started running in my lighter shoes with less cushioning and my IT Band and hip issues are gone.  

The research that I have done makes total sense too.  When you run in a cushioned shoe, you don’t have to really think about good form.  You don’t need to use your legs as shock absorbers.  When you run in more of a minimal shoe, you have no option other than to use your legs to absorb the impact as you run.  You will actively think about your form and know what areas need improvement. 

I feel like I have found the ultimate shoe for me.  That Altra Instinct 2’s are light with just enough cushion to run a half marathon, but fast enough for speed workouts as well.  Hopefully you take a second to evaluate the shoes you have and see if a change in the type of shoe you run in might eliminate a particular pain that you might be experiencing. 

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