Shoes: Light, Flat, Flexible, and Wide are Best
Runners have one important consideration when it comes to gear and that of course is their shoes. All the other stuff is for cosmetic dressing. Before the 1980's, most running shoes were flat bottomed with little to no drop from heel to toe. Injuries like knee issues, shin splints, achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis were rare at that time. Then came two new changes to the running world.
1) The wrong belief that a longer stride equaled a faster time
2) Running shoes were redesigned to encourage the lengthening of the stride by raising the heel and lowering the forefoot. This drop forced most runners to unconsciously become heel strikers instead of the naturally preferred method of mid foot striking.
In 2011 a movement back to the old running way was growing popular after a powerful book by Christopher McDougall called "Born to Run" came out. In it, McDougall made the case (now backed by countless studies) that our bodies are already designed to walk and run as efficiently as possible. It's when we try to supplement our feet with foam that our natural ways deteriorate. His argument, and the validation from later studies, pushed the shoe market into offering "minimal" alternatives.
The problem is that the shoe industry forgot the kids. The shoes that are offered to our youth are still the same that I have seen in the 80's, 90's and 00's.
The best we can do is look for shoes that are neutral, lightweight, flat (meaning not much drop from heel to toes), flexible, and have a wide toe box. Forget about stability shoes and ones that advertise running on a cloud. That cloud will hide the rock that you end up rolling your ankle on.
Here are some suggestions for youth running:
- Altra One Jr.
- Nike Free 5.0
- Under Armor Micro G Velocity
- Brooks Pure Flow 4
If all else fails, just look at the shoe. If it is massive, heavy, and rigid then look around some more. Our kids are still young and adaptable, so if you just bought a pair of clunkers, then keep them. Next time around though, think less is more.