3 'Form Breaking' Features of Running Shoes…What to Look for to Save Your Stride

It is estimated that up to 79% of runners become injured during a given year.  This is a large number for any one sport.  Research has look at strength, flexibility, volume of training, running surface, running form, and even shoe choice.

I get asked all the time during running evaluations, “What are the best running shoes?”

The reality is that there is no BEST running shoe for everyone.  Some runners need heel cushioning and some runners do best in a minimalist shoe with very little heel protection.

Choosing the correct shoe depends on a variety of factors with comfort and optimal stride performance at the top of the list.

Although there is no “best” running shoe for everyone there are shoe features that runners should avoid to protect their stride and avoid injury.  The 3 “form breaking” running shoe features that I am going to show you have been shown to alter running forces at the feet, knees, and lower back resulting in increased injury risk.

So without further ado…

#1 “Form Breaking” Running Shoe Feature to Watch Out For
Posterior Heel Flair

A shoe with posterior heel flair when extra shoe material extends out from the back of the heel.  This creates “torque” since your foot and leg have to control the descent of your foot for a longer periods of time thanks to the extra shoe material.

This is an important consideration for heel strike runners. 

Be sure to find a shoe with a straight drop from the top of the back part of the shoe to the sole.  This will keep the forces low and help you avoid injury and overuse.

#2 “Form Breaking” Running Shoe Feature to Watch Out For
Lateral Forefoot Flair 

A shoe with lateral forefoot flair has extra material that extends from outside part of the forefoot.  This creates “torque” during mid-stance increasing pronation forces and making you work harder to control ankle motion.

This is an important feature to watch out for in both heel and forefoot strike runners.

Be sure to find a shoe with little to no lateral flair on the front lateral part of the shoe to keep forces low and decrease strain on your ankle and knee.

#3 “Form Breaking Running Shoe Feature to Watch Out For
Increased Medial Heel Height 

A shoe with increased medial heel support has a tilt you can notice by placing the shoe on a flat surface and looking at the shoe from behind.

This shoe design makes it so that the medial heel is more likely to touch the ground first in heel strike runners.  This goes against proper gait mechanics since we should land in the posterior lateral part of the heel and roll to our whole foot to press off.

This feature decreases shock absorption by blocking pronation.  Although “over pronation” is commonly sighted in running shoe stores there needs to be pronation for the foot and ankle to absorb shock during landing. 

Choosing the right shoe

With the myriad of running shoe choices…minimalist, maximalist, motion control, stability, neutral, high drop, low drop…it is easy to see why patients of mine often bring in multiple pairs of shoes for the running gait analysis.

If you are having difficulty finding a good shoe that fits with your unique running style you are not alone.  Although a running shoe store can provide excellent education on types of shoes and new shoe technology they are not trained in biomechanics or gait analysis.

At Competitive EDGE Physical Therapy I have helped many runners and walkers find the perfect shoe by analyzing their gait and making recommendations to a local shoe store.

If you live in the Bay Area of California, and would like to have your stride analyzed by a biomechanics and gait expert, you can contact us at Competitive EDGE by calling 408-784-7167. 

Strong stride…right shoes…good training…great run!

Written By:
Kevin Vandi DPT, OCS, CSCS
Physical Therapist serving San Jose-Los Gatos-Campbell-Almaden