We have talked about training, nutrition, supplements, lifestyle and health in many articles so on. A subject that I have not really discussed much with you, but where there are very strong opinions about is the use of training material. Today I want to talk to you about shoes. Which shoes are really good for which purposes? Groups of people swear by sneakers, others by all-stars because of the flat soles and still others claim that barefoot / socks is the best thing you can do. I myself have (had) an opinion about this, but for this subject I did some more research before I wanted to throw my unventilated (and not fully substantiated) opinion your way.
In this article I mainly want to dive into the free motion shoes. Shoes in which the feet and toes are movable. The properties attributed in this article to movable shoes can also be attributed to a greater or lesser extent to barefoot or socks training.
Free motion shoes
Years ago, when I did some running (and I didn't score obese on the BMI scale) I once bought Vibrams. Those shoes with loose toes. This was over a decade ago, but lately I've been seeing this craze flaring up a bit again. Other shoe manufacturers also swear by the more flexible shoes. After all, that's how our feet and bodies were developed, right? Wearing a shoe on your foot is the same as wearing a mitt on your hand. However?
This type of shoe would have many advantages, from strengthening the foot and lower leg muscles, to improved range of motion of ankles, feet and toes, to improving posture (no elevation under the heel, as is not the case in nature. is).
Better or placebo
People who have tried these types of shoes (whether you're talking 5-toe shoes or more free-motion shoes) often do indeed experience pain relief, better posture or at least a change.
However, that is the point; just as with a diet or exercise schedule that changes things, change will often have positive effects in the first instance. This is partly due to the placebo effect.
If you have pain in your feet or knees when wearing normal shoes, switching to a free motion type of shoe in which your toes and feet are more mobile may feel better in the beginning. When you suddenly start walking on flip-flops during the summer holidays, it may feel like a relief and more natural in the beginning. However, after some time of habituation, the problems will likely return.
Let's take a look and check the stamps that are printed on the free motion shoes.
1. Strengthen the foot and lower leg muscles
In the first instance, there could be something to be said for this, if normal shoes support your foot very much. In the same sense, for someone who has been in a cast with his or her leg for 2 months, walking will also strengthen the leg. However, this effect is of course very short-lived and this 'extra' reinforcement will not or hardly contribute to noticeable stability and strength. More strength in the foot and lower legs comes from better trained muscles. As with any other body part, the muscles in this part of the body become stronger through specific exercises and movements.
2. More range of motion in ankle, foot and toes
As with the example above, range of motion and function will increase when it is initially very limited. However, this is not an advantage that is necessarily associated with free motion shoes. When your feet are functional and unrestricted, purchasing free motion shoes will not contribute to more range of motion or mobility.
As with any joint, full range of motion is important for the joints in your feet. If you always completely constrict your feet in boxes and stomp around in them from morning to evening, it is of course not surprising that functionality is lost. Always wearing a corset will reduce the mobility of the spine, always wearing knee sleeves will not contribute to the functionality of the knee joint.
For most people, however, this problem is not caused by the choice of sports shoes, but rather by the choice of shoes outside of sports. Walking in high heels or smart shoes in the office is more likely to be the cause of the problem. If your feet are stiff and limited in mobility due to footwear you wear for more than 40 hours a week, a fancy shoe for those few hours in the gym won't magically solve that. Nor will a few hours of training a week be enough to remedy your back pain if you are always slumped at your desk like the bell-ringer of Notre Dame.
3. Improve neurological function, balance and posture and move more naturally
Like all other parts of the body, our feet have been developed and evolved for the function they have to perform. Feet are made to support our body weight and give our brains feedback about the surface we are standing on. In turn, the brain can then direct the muscles in our body to adjust our posture and not constantly fall or sprain. When you are on the beach, a different muscle tone is required than when you are on grass.
The closer you get to a bare foot the footwear, the better your body and brain can perform this function. Certainly true.
Our feet are the foundation of our posture, and changes in foot position will affect posture in the rest of the body. However, simply changing foot position is rarely the complete solution to the problem. If you have knee, lower back or neck problems, it can certainly be good to check the position of your feet, but not all problems will disappear like snow in the sun when you do this.
Strength and stability in the legs, trunk, back and neck are all equally important.
Good or bad?
Few things are inherently good or bad and this is certainly true of this type of shoe. The argument for the use of shoes in which the feet and toes are movable during strength training sounds plausible. These shoes generally don't cushion much. Just like our feet don't. In addition, your feet can move well in these types of shoes, just as your feet could in the great outdoors. So wrapping our feet in shoes that limit this mobility would be bad, because that's not how we evolved. Not a pin in between, right?
However, we have not evolved to do strength training either. Not even to run long distances with great regularity. Certainly not on asphalt.
Therefore, it is good to ask yourself what the purpose is for you to use the shoe and what properties the shoe should have to help you fulfill this purpose.
Weight training shoes
When you want to train heavily, the goal is maximum strength. Strength is maximum when stability is not limited. During strength training with heavy weights you want the strength of the target muscle to be limiting; you don't want to worry about ankle stability during a deadlift.
For heavy lifts, the use of sturdy shoes is not at all wrong and if you have weaker ankles, it is even recommended. This also applies to training without shoes!
So dhe next craze will be training with boxes?
Training your calves
When you train your calves or lower legs you could make the argument that training on free motion shoes or socks improves the range of motion and would therefore be optimal. In the first instance, there is something to be said for this, since many shoes limit the range of motion in the ankle and therefore also that of the calf muscle.
However, keep in mind that our ankle, calf and certainly the foot (arch) have not evolved to make these movements with weights far above our own body weight. When you train your calves very hard, it can be wise to provide support to ankle and foot.
Shoes for running
Running then? This would be fine in bare feet or moveable shoes, right?
First of all, it is good to realize that regular running is not at all healthy for your feet or knees, period. We have evolved to run or to hunt. You didn't run for an hour while jogging. Nor is hunting. Walking long distances is not good for joints.
If you still want to run regularly (everyone his sport, everyone his own poison, I am the last to judge), a number of considerations are good. Technology has not stood still and is a lot faster than natural development. So make use of this!
When running, we have to deal with a hard hit with every step, especially if you run on a hard surface. Your joints will thank you when you buy shoes that absorb these blows.
Mind you, I'm talking about longer distances here. These rules apply less to sprinting, because fatigue (and the negative effect on posture) applies less here, and in addition, most people sprint on their toes, which absorbs the blows.
For any other sport, it is wise to keep the law of specific adaptation in mind. Our body gets better at what it does. Adaptation is specific. When you train, the advice would be to do this usually in the outfit (and therefore also the footwear) in which you have to practice your sport.
If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail
As with anything, it is wise to adapt your tools to the task at hand. Hitting a nail into the wall is better with a hammer than with a screwdriver. Typing long articles is better with a keyboard behind a computer than on your phone. Choose the right shoe for the task you want to perform.
As with training or nutrition, there is not one best for everything. Be specific.