Today, Steve DeMoss, manager of Big Peach Marietta, answers my burning questions about running shoes! With so many options, I always recommend that runners seek out the professionals, like those at Big Peach, to get a proper fit and to try all of the shoes that are right for their feet. Read on to learn more!
Elizabeth: What trends are you seeing in running shoes right now?
Steve: Soft, high stack, rockered bottoms are still all the rage. Hoka’s influence on the industry is still a bit outsized. This trend is not rooted in research as it’s a reaction to the success that Hoka has had (incidentally, while Hoka shoes are still quite soft, they are not as soft as some of the new models that appear to be trying to outdo Hoka). Surely, we’ve hit the peak of the so-called “max cushion” trend, but I thought that last year as well. But maybe we’re seeing a slight change with new shoes like the Ghost Max from Brooks which is high stack with a forefoot rocker (most rockers are placed more at midfoot) and is soft but not marshmallow soft (and therefore is more stable) gives a glimpse of what’s to come.
For racing, carbon plate shoes are still where it’s at although it’s still likely that the foam technology has an even greater impact than the plate itself. And we’re starting to see a few more iterations where plated shoes are trickling into trainers with Hoka’s Mach X, New Balance’s Super Comp Trainer and Saucony’s Kinvara Pro being excellent examples of this. The debate as to whether plastic plates or carbon plates are better for training remains. Carbon plates are more propulsive but more rigid and require a certain amount of force placed on them in order for them to be effective. Plastic plates are much more forgiving on slower runs and offer greater versatility.
Stability shoes are finding new ways to provide a stable base underfoot and the days of the “medial post” (a denser slab of foam on the medial side of the shoe) are mostly over. This new breed of stability shoe is still asymmetrically designed (more built up on the medial side) but offers a smoother ride underfoot as a result of not having so much dense foam. Of course, there’s a limit to how soft a shoe should be and still provide adequate support. Shoes like the Adrenaline GTS from Brooks still offer a sturdier feel whereas shoes like the completely redesigned Kayano 30 from Asics offer supreme cushion but counter that with an exceptionally broad base in the hope of providing the expected support from a shoe in this category.
It's worth noting that with all these soft shoes, durability has suffered. To deliver that soft, smooth feel it’s often necessary to have a softer outsole (the bottom of the shoe that protects the midsole) and softer outsoles do not wear as well. So, ironically, we’re in a situation where shoes have become pricier but have less durability. But lest we think this is some kind of conspiratorial planned obsolescence strategy, it’s not. It’s just the outcome of producing shoes that offer a smoother feel. And if that gets more people out running and walking then maybe it’s more than worth the sacrificing of durability.
EK: What should runners know when it comes to getting a new pair of shoes?
SD: I’ll start by saying that the correct mindset is to be agnostic towards brand and model and to learn what works for your foot and the way you run. That said, it is generally ideal for a running shoe to offer lots of room in the toe box (front of shoe) in three dimensions (length, width and depth) and a secure fit from the back half of the foot to the heel. Of course, this varies depending on the distance you plan to run and speed at which you run as well as personal preferences.
After that, it’s how a shoe feels underfoot when running. Despite all the knowledge and fun tools we have at our disposal, a shoe that feels smooth and like it’s helping propel you forward when running is still the best indicator that a particular shoe will work for you. Not only is every foot shaped differently and every shoe built differently but we all move differently. Considerations like posture, strength, balance, flexibility and running form all have an impact of how your foot interacts with a shoe and which type of shoe will feel smoothest. So, what works for one person may very well not work for another. Best bet? As stated originally, learn what you like, try lots of options and select the one that fits best and feels smoothest.
EK : What new technology or new designs are you most excited about?
SD: I like what we’re seeing in the stability category as I’ve become a little wary of the super cushioned shoes. The broader platforms are a more creative and enjoyable approach to providing support and stability and the slightly firmer feel underfoot is, in my opinion, better for providing the stable base to support the ankles and knees versus the highly cushioned shoes. But, of course, I’m speaking in general comparing categories and shoe to shoe comparisons can be different.
Sustainability is all the rage with more and more shoes now at least being partially made of recycled materials. But the most interesting and cutting edge development in sustainability is the idea of a fully recyclable shoe that is returned after being worn and then deconstructed and rebuilt into a new shoe. This has a little way to go before it is viable but multiple companies have prototypes or actual in market experiments underway. Much more to come here.
EK: What are the most common mistakes you see with runners picking shoes?
SD: Length and width are common mistakes but purchasing a shoe based on its reputation and reviews is also something we often see. Don’t get me wrong, reviews are very useful and, as a general statement, they can provide useful insight. But we’re all “an experiment of one” and you should only consider what is best for you. It’s something we try to emphasize strongly in the shop.
EK: What shoes are in your current rotation?
SD: I have the good fortune of being able to run almost exclusively on trails, so the Brooks Cascadia and Hoka Speedgoat trail shoes are staples. I’ve also tested a couple models from the Vectiv collection from The North Face and one model from Topo. On the road, I’ve spoiled myself with the plastic plated Mach X from Hoka and the carbon plated Kinvara Pro from Saucony. And I’d be remiss to not mention the Glycerin from Brooks which is the shoe I wear every day in the store. I love its stable cushion and super roomy toe box. And I’m much more jogger than runner these days so I don’t get much benefit from plated shoes, they just feel good.
There you have it! Steve reiterated what I tell all of my patients (and friends and family who ask about shoes) - the best shoe for you is the one that feels the best to you! If you're in the Atlanta area, check out one of Big Peach's 9 Locations for your next pair of running shoes. Also check out their website for upcoming group runs, races, and events!
Thanks for reading!
Dr. Elizabeth Karr PT, DPT