Your Super Cushioned Running Shoes Are Killing You!?

Cushioned Running Shoes: Do they HURT or HELP?

Maximalist cushioned running shoes are all the rage these days with athletes. The question is whether or not this is a good thing?

So you know. Things in a running shoe post might get a little fiery, and maybe even a little weird. After all, few things evoke more commentary, more fervor, and more zeal than a (wait for it) conversation around running shoes.


That’s right, runners tend to care WAY more about that thin (or in this case ULTRA thick) layer of rubber between them and the ground than they do about the next president…


or the name of their next child…


or…even the name of their current child.


Well, maybe not the last two things (sorry parents), but our footwear ranks pretty darn high in our day to day, especially when running or any other activity is concerned.


And before we delve into some interesting stuff, that the current maximalist shoe trend might NOT minimize impact on our legs and prevent running injury (for which shoes like the HOKA ONE ONE are now so famous), we have to look at our totally weird fetish-like relationship with shoes in the first place.


And yeah you’re probably saying, “Meeee? I don’t care that much about shoes. As IF”


Yeah you. Unless you’re a Hobbit you have an opinion. As for you barefoot runners out there…don’t even think you’re excluded from this post. You guys are just as shoe-weird as the rest of us.


So before we dig into the controversial stuff, what exactly is the underlying belief that unites us all?


Well, we believe that shoes save.


Shoes, or not shoes, or certain shoes can save us, right? Or to put it another way, woe to the runner unjustly fit into the wrong shoe. That marathon? Gone in the blink of a Strava KOM, especially should the wrong shoes cup your heels.


Oh, your friend who pulled up lame with that IT band injury? Turns out he was in a moderate stability shoe with a 10mm drop, when he should have been in a high stability shoe and a 12mm drop. Go figure…next time he’ll get it right.


So if all this certainty exists about the destroying power of the “wrong” shoe, how do we know when we have found the “right” pair?


Well, the moment we hand our credit card over, peek into the bag and see that newly minted cardboard box, smell that new shoe smell…we don’t just see the right shoe anymore, we feel it.  Yes, we actually don’t see the hunk of rubber and lace for what it is. What we DO see is our own possibility and potential. We see the vision: I can do anything, run anywhere, and accomplish ALL of my major goals with this shoe. We vibrate with a sense of hope, inevitably, success, and perhaps a touch of nothing-can-stop-me invincibility as we exit the store.


And bam. Just like the Reebok Classics of old, you’re all pumped up. You’re sold not only on the shoe, but on the idea for which all shoes stand.


So before reading through these two attached articles, the first a recent study showing that runners experience GREATER levels of impact in maximalist shoes like the HOKA’s, and second a New York Time’s commentary on this latest shoe trend, and before you pass judgement either way, take a moment to examine your own totally weird fetish-y relationship with shoes.


They have to look right, be of a certain color, the precise size, the right brand, be designed specifically for our task at hand, etc, etc. Even choosing NOT to wear shoes is now a trend. Yes there’s a lifestyle, product, and similar promises associated with virtually any fork in the road.


The question is: which fork have you chosen? 


Where do your loyalties lie, and why? Are your shoes responsible for your failure or success? Your injuries or crazy streak of health? Did your shoes get you to the Boston Marathon starting line? Or to your most recent 5km PR?


Of course this important piece of equipment plays a big role in our lives, but can any shoe, however big or small, actually live up to the promises we put on them? And if they cannot, where else can we put all that hope, inevitably, success, and nothing-can-stop-me attitude?




BTW: If you DO want not only on choosing the best gear, but also on getting stronger, running more efficiently, and staying injury free…all with coaching from The Run Experience, then the 2 week Run Fitness Formula is for you. In 2 weeks’ time, not only will you start to develop a foundation that will build strength, speed, and health, you’ll have life-time access to this awesome resource of over 50+ videos, workout tips, and coaching instructions! Click here to learn more!



Running shoe reveal: Study links max cushioning, higher load


By P.K. Daniel

Researchers from the Spaulding National Running Center at the Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, MA, have found that running in highly cushioned shoes is not associated with lower impact forces than conventional running shoes.

Instead, the investigators found highly cushioned (HC) shoes result in a significantly higher vertical average load rate (VALR) and vertical instantaneous loading rate (VILR), both of which have been associated with overuse injuries such as tibial stress fractures and plantar fasciitis. The findings were presented in May at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) in San Diego.

The study was inspired by HC shoe manufacturers’ claims that the thicker midsoles reduce the impact of landing during running, said Matthew Ruder, MS, a laboratory engineer at the Spaulding National Running Center, who presented the findings. These shoes are designed with up to 2.5 times more cushioning by volume than the standard running shoe, accounting for less heel-to-toe drop and a more uniform thickness throughout the shoe. The HC shoes used in the ACSM study had a 4-mm heel drop, versus about a 12-mm heel drop in the traditional shoes.

Fourteen healthy male runners (age 31.6 ± 11.2 years), who run on average a minimum of 10 miles per week, were recruited for the ongoing study. All were rearfoot strikers. They ran at a standard self-selected speed (average 2.68 m/s) on an instrumented treadmill under both shoe conditions.

Ruder said the team found little difference between shoes for vertical ground reaction forces. However, running in HC shoes resulted in significantly higher impact loading (VILR and VALR). The peak lateral forces that occur early in the stance, which appeared to be lower in the HC shoes than the traditional shoes when fewer runners were analyzed, also turned out to be significantly higher for the HC shoes. These increased forces may further increase the pronatory moment during early stance.

While counterintuitive, the results are consistent with other studies, the researchers said. In a 2006 study of nine healthy runners, investigators from the University of Florida in Gaines­ville reported that leg stiffness during hopping was significantly greater in a cushioned shoe than barefoot, whereas leg stiffness did not differ significantly between a less-cushioned shoe and barefoot. Those findings were published in the Journal of Athletic Training.

“People actually land softer when they have less cushioning,” said study coauthor Irene S. Davis, PhD, PT, a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and director of the Spaulding National Running Center. “Cushioning actually lulls you into thinking you can slam your foot into the ground.”

The runners were given three minutes on the treadmill to acclimate to each shoe before data from 15 steps were collected. Because the participants were not habituated to the HC shoes, the researchers have more studies planned to see if more time for familiarization has an effect on loading rates.

“We still have much to do,” said Ruder. “This was just a pilot study with runners who don’t run in these shoes. We need to get people who run in these shoes habitually. This will be especially important to know—how people have adapted to running in them over time.”

The researchers plan to look at the kinematics associated with the different shoe cushioning conditions, and also have started to collect accelerometer data at the ankle to examine tibial shock. The results from the accelerometer data will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics in August in Columbus, OH.

“I think there will be some interesting results to come out of that as well,” Ruder said.


Ruder M, Atimetin P, Futrell E, Davis I. Effect of highly cushioned shoes on ground reaction forces during running. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2015;46(5 Suppl); S267.

Bishop M, Fiolkowski P, Conrad B, et al. Athletic footwear, leg stiffness, and running kinematics. J Athl Train 2006; 41(4):387-392.

Forget Barefoot; New Trendsetter in Running Shoes Is Cushioning



Athletes who spent the past few years embracing or scorning barefoot running can now consider whether increasingly popular “maximalist” shoes — with their chunky, heavily cushioned soles — are the sport’s new wonder product.

Some dismiss the shoes as gimmicky, or just silly-looking. Others, including injury-prone joggers and Olympians, are apostolic converts.

Leo Manzano, an Olympic medalist in the 1,500 meters, runs in the most popular maximalist shoe brand, Hoka One One, which has double the cushioning of standard running shoes. Plagued by plantar fasciitis, an inflammation in his foot, Manzano said the condition disappeared just a week after he tried the shoes last March. In July, he became the fifth fastest American in the 1,500. Manzano is now sponsored by Hoka, which has been accruing a roster of competitive distance runners. “They’re not your normal shoe, but I actually think they’re better than normal,” Manzano, 30, said. “When I first saw them, because they’re so big, I thought they’d be heavy. But they’re incredibly light. My legs felt really fresh after a long run in them. It’s like running on a cloud.”


Hoka One One’s initial customers were ultrarunners, who felt the extra cushioning helped protect their legs from the shock of running up to 200-mile races. But the brand is gaining a following with more recreational athletes. Last year it sold more than 550,000 pairs, which cost $130 to $170 each, and its $48 million in sales were up 350 percent from 2013. Founded in 2009 by French athletes and based in the Bay Area, the company was acquired in 2012 by Deckers Brands, which also owns UGG Australia and Teva.

Solutions for injury prevention, on the extremes of the athletic footwear spectrum, have reached panacea-like proportions in recent years. The rise of maximalism counters the fall of minimalism, particularly the barefoot running movement. Boosted by terms like “proprioception” (feel for the road) and the best-selling book “Born to Run,” which argued that the human body was naturally built for running without corrective footwear, American sales of minimalist shoes peaked at $400 million in 2012.

They have been declining since. The most visible minimalist shoe was theVibram FiveFinger, which looked like gloves for your feet. But in May, Vibram agreed to settle a lawsuit that alleged the company made false claims about the health benefits of its footwear.

Despite the heavy supply of potential solutions, demand for injury prevention remains high.

“People are frustrated, and we’re told so often there’s a magic shoe that will stop our injuries,” said Jay Dicharry, a biomechanist in Bend, Ore., and author of “Anatomy for Runners.”  “But that’s just not true.”

Rich Mendelowitz, a longtime runner from Arlington, Va., started wearing Hokas while training to qualify for the Boston Marathon last year at age 55.

“I’ve had more comments on these shoes than I’ve had hot meals since wearing them,” he said. “But as a relatively older runner, staying injury-free is particularly important to me. I’m convinced that these are the shoes that will extend your running life.”

Mindful of the Vibram lawsuit, Hoka has been careful not to make any evidence-based health claims, and few studies exist on the effectiveness of extreme cushioning. One prominent University of Colorado study in 2012found that the benefits of cushioning underfoot were finite: 10 millimeters of cushioning on a treadmill saved energy, while 20 millimeters of cushioning did not.

Lauren Fleshman, a national champion in the 5,000 meters, likened the maximalist upswing to past footwear phenomena, now rejected as passé.

“To me, maximalist shoes fall right in the line of every other shoe trend,” she said. “There’s some good reasoning, but we don’t know enough about how it affects the body longer term, and we won’t know until everyone has been using it a while and all the other research comes out about how it destroys your body or whatever, and then there’s a lawsuit, and then there’s a campaign about how to use the technology properly, and then in the midst of all this confusion the next trend takes off. There is no shoe savior coming for us.”

Dicharry, the biomechanist, suggested that extreme shoes like the Hokas might be best used in moderation.

“Some people have a road bike, a commuter bike and a mountain bike, and they all have their purpose,” Dicharry said. “Maximalism is the new fat-tire bike of running shoes.”

Despite his devotion to Hokas, Manzano said he still ran short distances barefoot to keep his feet strong.

Jonathan Beverly, the shoe editor for Runners World, said maximalist shoes like the Hoka incorporated many of the qualities that made minimalism popular, while also mitigating the impact of running on hard surfaces.

“The benefit of the big sole is actually similar to what the minimal movement did; with both types of shoes you have to keep your body and your center of gravity above your feet,” Beverly said. “So you’re running with the same posture as you would if you were barefoot, but with all this cushioning.”

A move toward extra cushioning extends beyond the Hokas to more mainstream brands. Sales of one of Brooks’s most cushioned shoes, Glycerin, increased 29 percent in 2014, and the company also added a new higher-cushioned shoe last year.

“When we were doing the research behind lightweight shoes, 70 to 80 percent of runners we surveyed felt that cushioning was the attribute they most wanted,” said Carson Caprara, a senior product manager for Brooks Running. “Our goal is not to make it look like you’re wearing something crazy different. It looks for the most part like a regular running shoe, but it’s done differently. It’s designed to make you feel like you’re not hitting the ground.”

Dicharry said maximalist shoes were not necessarily suited for running fast.

“They could be good for easy runs,” he said. “But when you’re doing a speed workout, you want to go back to firmer footwear that helps your body explode off the ground.”

Manzano felt that the higher cushioning of his Hokas suited his higher mileage.

“I run 70-80 miles a week, which is extreme, and I was suffering from extreme issues,” he said. “So I need extreme support.”

Ultimately, most runners may need to resort to more traditional solutions.

“Of course what’s on your feet is important,” Dicharry said. “But there is a lot of evidence to show that people who spend more time improving their bodies as opposed to shopping for shoes are the ones who are going to run better.”

A version of this article appears in print on February 17, 2015, on page B9 of the New York edition with the headline: Forget Barefoot; New Trendsetter, if Not Pacesetter, Is Cushioning. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe


Yo. So are you a shoe-guy (or girl) or are you…you know… a barefoot


“Instead, the investigators found highly cushioned (HC) shoes result in a significantly higher vertical average load rate…and vertical instantaneous loading rate…, both of which have been associated with overuse injuries such as tibial stress fractures and plantar fasciitis.”


–HC shoe claims that maximalist cushion shoes reduce impact of landing…(and thereby injuries).


–These increased forces may further increase the pronatory moment during early stance., i.e. greater pronation


–Confirms 2006 earlier study, SL hopping saw higher impact in cushioned shoes than barefoot.


“People actually land softer when they have less cushioning,” said study coauthor Irene S. Davis, PhD, PT, a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and director of the Spaulding National Running Center. “Cushioning actually lulls you into thinking you can slam your foot into the ground.”


–People who disagree?

It’s a small study. Running on treadmill is very different from running on a road.

The control shoe had a 12mm drop, the HC shoe 4mm drop. How do they know it’s not the heel drop that’s responsible?

The runners aren’t habituated to running in HC shoes. Do people run better in them with more time and practice?


“Plagued by plantar fasciitis, an inflammation in his foot, Manzano said the condition disappeared just a week after he tried the shoes last March. In July, he became the fifth fastest American in the 1,500.”


Despite the heavy supply of potential solutions, demand for injury prevention remains high.

“People are frustrated, and we’re told so often there’s a magic shoe that will stop our injuries,” said Jay Dicharry, a biomechanist in Bend, Ore., and author of “Anatomy for Runners.”  “But that’s just not true.”


Lauren Fleshman, “There is no shoe savior coming for us.”


  • Daniel Nikel

    So this post got my attention. Injured this year by low profile kicks. Feet were fine then two days of sprints uphill knocked the life out of my feet!

    I wanted to blame all involved and join the sueing culture….I wanted the running shop to pay and the kicks manufacturer to burn!

    I mailed both jointly and asked them to contact me. The shoe maker was first to provide contact. Great customer services. They explained how they point out and train the running stores on where they place their products therefore the fact that the shoe was in a support section meant it was incorrectly placed. (I can understand that)

    Next up was the shoe store. They apologised and offered refund or replace straight away. They also offered padded in doles to help with needed cushioning. I have accepted this and cut my losses. I have been out of running scince March now and dabbled just yesterday 3 miles in 7mmp. My foot has held up I think. I have three types of insole now however. One from boots which made the pain of walking bearable and one from the local orthopedic shoe shop which seems the have given me extra confidence to strike the ground.

    I also had 3 sessions of psysio which helped me to walk correctly early on along with metatarsal support recommended by the Dr. The DR suggested what I wanted to avoid (quatazon injections) I also predicted this would be his solution….the orthopedic center said that my Dr was wrong and I had not lost padding in my foot.

    Basically I have been thrown pillar to post and scared to spend any money on shoes again. The science needs to improve and until everyone run bear foot for a year and then full padding for a year you cannot really draw many conclusions. I guess each case has its individual issue to bring to the table.

    • Nate Helming

      thanks for the note! Glad you enjoyed our post. You know the biggest thing we work on with runners like you is getting you to move better in your body, understand where and why you’re body is tight, and how you can make simple improvements in your mobility, strength, and run technique. Meaning you’ll be able to run well regardless of the shoes you’re in.

      Our most successful program so for is our 30 Day Challenge! You can learn more about this 30 day program here:

      And trust me, I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t think it would help 🙂

      But if that’s too big of a commitment, we have an injury prevention series that walks you through a series of game changing mobility exercises that will really help you understand how to work on your feet, ankles, and calves so that your feet work a little bit better for you!

    • hey Daniel Nikel how are you doing with your running? Sorry to hear about your frustrations here and unfortunately you are NOT alone on this one. Hope your running future is looking a little brighter 🙂

      • Daniel Nikel

        Well things are not quite as bad. I managed to visit an occupational health Specialist who advised me unlike my Dr and My usual sports physio that I did not have Plantar Fasciitis but and issues with a joint in the middle of my foot. I can put weight on my foot now and have my children on my back however I seemed to have developed Sciatica now maybe from trying to run too fast too soon on unprepared legs…Or like Ruth says it may be just my age being a factor. All I know is I was healthy prior to this mess of getting given the wrong shoes for my feet. I have ben able to do upto 5 miles 3 times and then I have had to rest from running and unfortunately this is not a consistent pattern yet the rests have been weeks rather than a day or two.
        I am trying not to push to much as I have a competition coming up I am doing with my friends called Endure24 you may have heard of it? Anyway I am looking forward to the day and will compete no matter my condition (well ok maybe I will stop if it hurts and keep my ability to walk).

        • Daniel Nikel

          One issue I have with these studies is that the subjects only run 10 miles per week when the average runner must run upto around 50 miles per week and the speed can sometimes be twice as quick which equals a greater load usually… any thoughts? It may not change the study much but when you include a flat foot runner also into the mix I am sure the studies might come up with different results.

          • Hey Daniel. If you haven’t checked out our Ultimate Guide it’s a good place to start.

            I’m willing to bet that a focus on strength, single leg strength and balance, greater mobility and range of motion, and a daily practice around your movement can solve a lot of these problems.

            Remember it’s good to look at the problem from a micro lense, but if we never step back and look at the big picture we risk running around in circles.

            so check out our piece on squatting, on hollow body (Core work) etc. The good news? You can work on all of this stuff right now, even while you’re foot’s healing 🙂

    • Ruth Eiermann

      Its tough to experience issues when you just want to get out and run but I also blame it on age. As I have gotten older tendon issues have become more of a problem. Finding the right shoe is always difficult. I am out for 6 weeks with tarsal tunnel caused by overuse and that pounding during my speed work. You are not alone….. Missing the spring season will be tough but now I can root for my fellow runners and come back strong!

      • Hey Ruth! I’ll suggest the same to you as I did to Daniel. I think some focused work on strength, mobility, balance and coordination will really suprise you. We have to step back and look at the bigger picture and ask: why are your feet getting so beat up in the first place? Is it really just this one shoe? We believe you should be able to run in a lot of different shoes and that (while important) YOU control your movement more than your equipment does or should. I hope that makes sense! You can dig in more here with our Ultimate Guide:

  • Ruth Eiermann

    I am confused with this article. Are you saying to leave it in the eyes of the beholder, not fads and promises? Hmm?

    • In essence yes Ruth we are! Shoes play an important role, but we want to know why we are running in what shoes and simulataneously we want to further understand why our body moves the way it does and figure out ways to make it move better!

      • Ruth Eiermann

        and I am down for 6 weeks… Eek ghats! Why overuse and no rest time. I guess we all learn the hard way.

  • Alfredo Corretjer

    I was suffering from injuries for the last 3 years, keeping me out of training, and gaining weight; In this month, I gave an opportunity to Hoka One and my pain is gone, I am registered for a 5K next Saturday; I have improved distance, time etc… and no pain.

    • that’s great to hear Alfredo! Just remember…did the shoe really “fix” the problem? Or did it just take the pain away? Not necessarily the same thing. We like good running shoes around here, we just want to also have the conversation around your strength and mechanics and what things YOU can be doing to improve your running..regardless of the shoe you’re in!–Nate

  • Sarah Bibby

    I try to remain skeptical of all running shoe manufacturer’s claims – we all have different running styles and are all different weights and sizes so why should we expect one type of shoe to suit us all? I’ve progressed from running in Asics’ (at the time) most cushioned shoes, the rather lovely Nimbus, but struggled with shin splints. I transitioned through various Brooks Glycerine and Adidas Ace iterations and now run in a variety of low-profile shoes (Nike Free 5 and 4, NB Minimus WR00 and TR00 and Inov8 X-talon. I don’t fully subscribe to the whole barefoot thing (rocks hurt!) but I find I prefer a flexible, light-weight shoe with minimal/little cushioning. However, I fully accept that this is not for everyone – heavy landing heel-strikers would probably end up with impact related injury issues – and I certainly don’t think anyone should go from one type of running shoe to another (either barefoot or max cushioning) without a period of transitioning. (It took me a couple of years to get down to zero drop, zero cushioning and even now I tend to use them only for shorter, faster paced runs.)

    The study mentioned seems extremely rudimentary and I’d hesitate to draw conclusions from a study where the control shoe and the shoe tested were so wildly different (could they not have used a control shoe with the same drop?) and where the runners were given only 3 minutes to acclimatise to the shoes… When a study is done on athletes who regularly run 30+ miles a week, are accustomed to running on a treadmill and have a proper control to compare with, then maybe we can draw some meaningful conclusions – but by then we’ll probably be drooling over some other shoe trend! (For info, I’m currently drooling over the Nike Flyknit range – no seams, fit like slippers. Swoon!)

    • Nate Helming

      thanks for the thoughtful reply Sarah! You know it’s always when looking at different studies and extrapolating those results to mean something bigger 🙂 You’re right to remain skeptical AND to look at the conditions under which the study was conducted!

  • Michelle C.

    I’m one of those people who’ve spent their whole running career (19 years at this point) in search of the perfect shoe. And everyone is different. Recently, I suffered a bucket handle tear of me left my lateral meniscus, which left me with a locked knee and on crutches for a month. In the interest of best preserving my good let while under a newly higher load, I decided to spend most of my time on my feet in running shoes. The shoes of choice were two that I don’t love running in: Mizuno Hitogami and Nike Pegasus. I thought I’d appreciate the extra cushion and softness of the Pegs, but I was dead wrong. The extra soft stack height left me feeling like my good leg – and the foot in particular – was doing substantially more work in order to remain stable than in the much lower Hirogami. While I continue to heal post-surgery, it’s left me thinking that soft shoes are not something I want anymore. The cushion feels nice on my feet, but what is it really doing to the rest of my body? I also wonder whether softness is a much bigger factor than stack height. Lots to think about.

  • Jane Hudson Eaker

    I have been experimenting with an Altra shoe. So if its a zero drop with HC-does that make a difference towards impact . I am recovering from a back issue. What will provide the best impact absorption. Does the heel height/forefoot height ratio make a difference. It seems like a lot more studies need to be done.

  • Christopher Quiroga

    I’m just not so sure that the term “zero-drop” is really all that accurate from a functional kinetic perspective. To preface with a little background, I have had several nagging injuries throughout the years, ranging from the rare occurrence of typical shin splints, to more prevalent lower back issues, peroneal tendonitis, soleus pain, knee pain, and general forefoot pain, either caused or exacerbated by running, all of them being more of a concern in recent years, especially back, foot and knee pain, since I have put on a good deal of muscle weight, along with unwanted fat during periods of food splurging during injury-induced inactivity( why do those always seem to go together?). Though I’ve never really been what I’d call a true runner, running has always been a favorite fitness activity, both for fitness and recreation on its own, and a necessarily beneficial complement to my other activities such as boxing and soccer, and I’m happy to say that I’m finally getting back into it after a long period of injury and illness. Therefore, in my desire to continue a running program, footwear has been a major aspect of that endeavor. In my research over the last several years, I’ve considered many aspects of maximal vs minimal both in theory and practice, such as the fact that “natural” does not necessarily include concrete and asphalt, and that body weight and composition greatly affect one’s gait and the resulting consequences. In short, I’ve been looking for the perfect shoe, or rather, rotation of shoes.

    Forgive the lengthy preface and let me come to the point. In regards to the high-cushion, minimal-drop debate, I have recently come to realize that there is one potentially important concept I have only very rarely (perhaps only once or twice) even seen addressed let alone studied. There seems to be little to no accounting for the fact that upon impact, any material meant to provide cushioning must inherently compress, especially in a high-cushion shoe, where the compression would be significantly higher than a firmer shoe. So if a runner such as myself (I tend to lean towards a mid-foot strike, then often resort to rear-foot as I get tired…so basically I rear-foot a lot more than I would like 🙂 who weighs north of 200 were to land on my heel in a zero-drop shoe, it seems highly likely that I would in effect be wearing a NEGATIVE drop shoe, as the compression forces would place my heel FAR below my forefoot, and would remain there until part of the way through transition, as the force on the heel strike would be far greater than the push off of the forefoot. With some of the softer materials being stacked up so high, a negative drop seems a likely scenario even with a 4mm or 6mm drop, as even with walking, I can feel a significant compression under heel in some of the softer shoes I have tried. Obviously, this would result in a much greater transition effort for a true heel striker, a group around which much of the current data revolves, as the forefoot essentially has to dig the heel out of a hole with every step, but what affect would these forces have on the muscles, bones, and tendons that would essentially be running uphill in moist clay with every step, but doing so from a position that places them under unique stresses that bear no resemblance to actually running up a hill on your toes?

    This is definitely a conundrum I would love to see answered with further study. Obviously, without any hard data, I can’t make a judgement either way, nor speak with any authority on the matter, but from an eager enthusiast’s perspective, it seems to me that a foot unevenly squishing into a zero drop shoe heel-first may not only be confounding some of the current study results, but potentially could also be a fairly bad idea.

  • Carrie

    These are the best, most thoroughly researched shoes I have found. The sole development also came out of Harvard research during the barefoot research trends. And continued research on the UVA treadmill. After a competitive college career and some hefty post-collegiate marathon training, they are the only shoes I can wear where my feet don’t hurt in the first 1/4 mile and my back doesn’t hurt later that day. I am totally sold. As for Hoka’s. I was given a free pair, and they came in handy when I broke my ankle and was in a walking boot. I was able to wear a Hoka on my healthy foot and elevate to the same level as that klunky walking boot. Good for them.

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  • Susan

    A lifetime recreational runner I used many different shoes. (Adidas response was a favorite) Four years ago I decided to take on a 13.1. And during that training I went to a local running store who checked my form, etc. Brooks Ghost was great for three years. 10 half marathons, and a full. After awhile injuries started to plague me. The Hoka’s felt so sweet under my aching legs….but they certainly required more work running than the Ghosts. I then switched to the Glycerin 12’s. Felt more control over my form (I am 5’4 and 112). they were great until Brooks decided to add more cushioning when the 13’s and 14’s came out. Although the cushioning made my feet feel better it did affect my gate. I had to focus for my 20 mile runs. my 3rd attempt to run the 20 miler (before my 2nd marathon) went bad. A stressed tendon probably due to an over tightened hamstring. So, now I am out looking for another type of shoe that isn’t all cushioning yet isn’t zero drop. Ugh! It is frustrating when one finds a great shoe just to have the manufacturer change it. (Brooks). I have had my gate and form checked by specialists.

  • Gary

    Ever since I bought a pair of ASICs Kayano, the extra cushion gel have been giving me really had shin splints. I stopped wearing them altogether, jog instead with my tennis shoes (which barely have any cushion) and the shin splint all but disappeared. Guess Asics just ain’t for me despite how great they feel

  • Andrew Shardlow

    I have seen the study by J Baltich et al. It is pretty high tech yet rather naive. It uses recreational runners with a 90% heel strike and compares the dynamics of a normal drop conventional shoe with a low drop highly cushioned shoe. This is a strange choice as it does not control for drop. Directly measured forces are obtained from running a short distance to include over a footplate. These forces are applied to the bottom of the shoe not the sole of the foot. The study did not look at long term adaptation to the extra cushioning (AND to the reduced drop).