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Lighter Running Shoes Are Better
Lightweight trainer means less impact, less fatigue and faster recovery
Wearing lightweight running shoes and running at a gentle pace can be very beneficial for runners of any ability or experience level.
If you have good running form and a natural running (midfoot/forefoot) gait, and wear light shoes, running can put you in a euphoric state of bliss as you breeze through the miles. Whether you’re running a minute or a marathon, everything works harmoniously and efficiently.
But if you’re out of shape and wear heavy, bulky shoes — the two usually go hand in hand — the simple act of running can quickly wreak havoc on your body. Heavier training shoes usually weigh more because their heels are built in, which translates to an 8% to 15% steeper angle. This results in a heavy heel strike gait and braking, both of which have been shown to lead to various overuse injuries.
Conversely, lightweight training shoes with a very low heel-toe slope (5% or less) encourage a more natural running gait in which the foot touches the ground very lightly and is nearly level near the ball of the foot (very Similar to bare feet touching the ground).
So how light is light? Modern materials and manufacturing techniques—including fewer stitching, fewer overlays, and lighter midsoles—have made shoes lighter and lighter. Training shoes still weigh between 7.5 and 9.5 ounces (depending on gender and shoe size) to 11.0 and 12.5 ounces. Two or three ounces may not seem like much, but once you lace up your shoes, you can feel the difference on your feet, and you’ll definitely feel the effect after a long run.
But while lightweight shoes are better for all runners (especially when adopting an efficient, natural running gait), it’s not just actual weight that makes the difference. It also has to do with how the shoe is made and how much downward energy it can convert into forward propulsion.
However, that midfoot or forefoot running gait doesn’t mean running on your toes like a sprinter. Instead, let your feet land directly under your body and lift your feet off the ground, rather than pushing hard like a sprinter. To practice this light landing technique, keep your feet level with the ground, then lever forward and lift your feet off the ground.
The benefits of wearing lighter shoes include less braking (and therefore less impact), less muscle strain and less energy output because you are lifting the weight of the shoe off the ground rather than using the Excessive muscle force pushes it off the ground.
Simple math shows that if you carry an extra 2 ounces when you exceed 25,000 steps in a half marathon or 50,000 steps in a marathon, that means you’re carrying an extra 3,000 to 6,500 pounds to the finish line. The difference in impact transients—the force your body experiences when your foot collides with the ground—is greater in a heel strike gait in a heavier shoe than in a lightweight shoe that promotes ease in the midfoot or forefoot Much more gait. The combination of all of these factors means that you will experience less physical exertion and fatigue while wearing a lightweight pair of shoes, which ultimately means you can recover faster.
There’s an easy way to experience the metabolic difference in running in lightweight, minimally constructed shoes versus running in shoes that weigh a few ounces. After warming up, wear a pair of 12-ounce sneakers and run a mile on the track at a predetermined pace (say, 8 minutes, 60 seconds per 200 meters) and use a heart rate monitor to record your heart rate data. Then put on a pair of 9-ounce sneakers and run another mile at the same 8-minute pace. When you wear lighter shoes, you may find that your heart rate drops by 5 to 10 percent on the second mile, even though you’re running at the same pace per mile.
At the end of the day, the weight of your training shoe has a huge impact on a runner’s efficiency. Lightweight shoes, especially ones that allow you to run with a natural gait and a soft midfoot/forefoot strike, can reduce muscle strain and fatigue, improve your endurance and help you recover faster, all of which are factors that improve running. But if you’re considering changing your running style or the style of shoes you wear, do it gradually and carefully to avoid injury.
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