So, what’s new on the shoe front? The simple answer, says podiatrist Sean Pincus, is weightloss, guide rails for stability, and better forefront roll-off, which is good news for comfort and injury prevention. Here’s his pick of newer shoes that all fit into a stability
range, but are not traditional stability shoes.
Over the past year I have looked at many shoes and been fortunate to have worn a few of them. It certainly seems that shoe companies across the brands follow similar patterns. First
we had the minimalist craze, followed by maximalist shoes, followed by the introduction of energy return midsoles, meta rockers or roll-off. Now weight loss – getting the shoes to below the 300g threshold – seems the new holy grail.
That said, brands seem to be retaining the lessons of maximalist stacks, the forefoot roll-off, softer, lighter more responsive midsoles, lighter materials in the upper, and less rubber on the outersoles. All of these features lead to shoes that weigh less.
The traditional stability shoe seems to be on the wane and guide rails seem to be taking over – and I think that they do a better job.
The forefoot roll-off is becoming more obvious to see in the design, and has an easier feel when running. With my understanding of foot mechanics, that’s a good thing. Why is that? The best analogy is this: think of riding downhill on a technical trail with a flat front tyre. The front of the bike will be unstable and it could lead to trouble. The foot comprises two anatomical columns, the medial (big toe side) column and the lateral (little toe side) column (although more correctly they are beams, but that’s an argument for the clever people).
The lateral column is the power drive chain of the foot, as it’s directly attached to the calf muscle group. The medial column sits on top of the lateral column (between the tibia and
the heel-bone) and is attached to the lateral column. The medial column is the adapter portion of the foot. When you walk or run, it’s the medial column that adapts to the surface you’re on, and also absorbs impact through pronation (yes pronation is normal).
But the pronation phase must end and the foot needs to lock up to become a lever to propel you forward, and it’s a pretty complex mechanical system that does this. If this fails then we can see this as an unstable forefoot which predisposes you to a variety of injuries, like plantar fasciopathy, tendinitis in the inside of the ankle, knee pain and ITB to name a
few. Some shoes, particularly the softer shoes on the wrong feet, can allow too much motion in the forefoot and this can be a breeding ground for an injury
TRIED & TESTED
Now please understand that when I say I run in the shoes I get, it’s more like I jog a few hundred metres and then power walk, or stroll with the dogs. But this does let me get a pretty good understanding of how the shoes interact with my feet and that lets me make inferences as to how my patients may like the shoes or not.
First up is the Adidas Solarglide 5.
This is a stability shoe with a dualdensity
thicker-stack midsole, comprising traditional EVA closest to the foot to create a guide-rail-type system, and Adidas’s Boost midsole underneath. It’s a comfortable shoe and will do the trick in most circumstances. It’s better suited for a heavier runner, or someone needing support later in the day when fatigue has set in.
Now let’s look at the Saucony Endorphin Shift 3, now the fourth tier down in the Endorphin range.
It has a solid, well-cushioned midsole
of PWRRUN foam, with a 4mm drop (although it looks like a much bigger drop). This illusion of a big heel drop comes from the midsole being well moulded externally around the rearfoot. The external heel cup provides some medial and lateral stability in the rearfoot, and again one can consider this a guide-railtype of system. The notable feature of this shoe is its forefoot roll-off (called SPEEDROLL) that feels like a plated shoe, but isn’t. Despite the lower heel drop, the SPEEDROLL makes it one of the shoes that assist me in helping runners with calf and ankle problems, and issues around the big toe joint.
Forefoot rockers help the movement of weight from behind the ankle to ahead of it and through the big toe joint. This can also help overall with efficiency of running.
Then there’s the ON CloudStratus 2.
At first I thought I’d put my size 10s into the CloudMonster. My initial impression was that it’s really well cushioned and felt really comfortable, but (I stress for my feet) the forefoot felt too soft and unsupported.
So begrudgingly I put on the CloudStratus
and was very impressed. This shoe provides good support for a heavier runner with more flexible feet. The double cloud tech supplies good cushioning but is still fi rm enough to manage the wobbly bit on top. A 6mm drop (some texts say 8mm) is pretty much middle-of-the-road, and in reality a 2mm heel drop either way will not cause an issue in the majority of
runners. There is a softish external heel counter that provides some stability in the rearfoot but a good idea, in my opinion, would be for ON to possibly extend the external heel cup into firmer guide rails. It has good forefoot roll-off and is an excellent shoe that will be a
good fit for many runners. I am in no way saying anything bad about the Monster – it was just too soft for my foot type. I think that the Monster will be great if you’re a lighter runner, have
decent foot mechanics and are looking for a well-cushioned responsive shoe.
On the ASICS Nimbus 25, I think the jury is still out. I have heard really conflicting reports, from excellent, responsive well-cushioned shoe with a great roll-off , to completely unstable in the forefoot. I would position this shoe together with the ON CloudMonster in that it’s there for a lighter frame person with no major foot mechanical issues.
On first glance, I thought that ASICS had teamed up with Hoka on this shoe – the midsole is quite a departure from the Nimbus of a few years ago.
The Puma ForeverRUN Nitro has just been launched and is the stability shoe that isn’t. The construction of this shoe is tri-density nitro, with the major component of the midsole looking like a foot cradle. This cradle provides quite firm guide rails with a good drop-off, and like the Endorphin Shift, it gives a plated forefoot rocker feel without a plate. The upper, while light, seems to have wellplaced and constructed "Powertape” that works with the midsole guide rails to support poor, unstable feet. The word that comes to mind with this shoe is forgiving. I think, based on my very early impressions in this shoe, that runners and triathletes who need some help in the latter stages of a race may find this shoe ticks that box.
NOTE: I stress that the suggestions I make are based on my opinion, and in no way replace the advice of my podiatric colleagues or specialist shoe shops. Remember if the shoe is not comfortable in the shop, it will never be comfortable on your run, so move on.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cape Town-based podiatrist Sean Pincus focuses on biomechanics and orthotic therapy.