Selecting Running Shoes

On the last day of March, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released a groundbreaking position paper called “Selecting Running Shoes.”  To those who came across the paper the following day, they might have mistakenly thought this was some kind of April Fools’ joke. It wasn’t!

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 3.56.00 PMAfter a generation of sports medicine doctors, podiatrists, coaches, and shoe stores “prescribing” elevated heel, cushioned, and supportive shoes with controlling devices, the science and experience are now finally connected to helpdirectly benefit runners and walkers. The ACSM has refined their position statement to align with ours at Two Rivers Treads in Shepherdstown, WV. It just so happens that it mirrors our footwear section which is 5 years old: 

Because ACSM is the world’s authority on exercise and health, this is big news for all runners (and walkers), and especially for everyone else in the footwear industry,  Read the full paper here:

(Please add your thoughts about this new position paper in the comments section below. Thanks).

The two ACSM coauthors, Kevin and Heather Vincent, are now at the University of Florida in Gainesville with a human performance lab. Kevin is an MD PhD, and his wife, Heather is a PhD in Exercise Physiology. Both are fellows of the ACSM and are objective and scientific in their thinking.  It must not have been easy for Kevin and Heather to challenge the old beliefs, and then guide the change.  We will  have an interview with them on NRC in the coming weeks.

The Vincents trained under my friend Dr. Casey Kerrigan, cofounder of OESH shoes, frequent contributor to the NRC, and who ran the gait lab at Harvard and then at the University of Virginia. Casey is also the most published person in the country on footwear and biomechanics.  She is so passionate about her beliefs that she left a tenured professor position at UVA to start making a better shoe in her Charlottesville factory.  I visited OESH two weeks ago and she has some really healthy shoes!  We will get them here at Two River Treads as soon as she ramps up production. Read about Dr. Kerrigan’s journey and learn some science here:

So the message for everyone is a simple one: If you are passionate to make change, then please hang in there.

34 Responses to “Selecting Running Shoes”

  1. Brian Hazard says:

    The second link is broken because the “h” in “http” isn’t part of the link.

  2. Howard Teas says:

    The second link works for me. Thanks

    I noticed that there is no mention of TMTS when changing to minimalist shoes. They also don’t mention mid-foot or forefoot strikes. My guess is that runners trying minimalist shoes and continuing to run heel strike will quickly give up, go back to “protective” shoes, and give us all a bad name.

    • MarkC says:

      thanks Howard, this statement is not about “minimal” shoes but ALL shoes. Yes to run in a lower drop shoe transition with care and do supportive exercises. But key point here is walk and run in flat, wide, unstructured shoes to allow your foot to do what it is designed to do. we have a nice transition page under Dr Marks Running School at Mark

    • MarkC says:

      p.s. In conversation with Kevin an evidence based statement on minimal shoes is in the works….stay tuned.


  3. Ryan says:

    Remarkable! Such a strong position from such a strong organization. How long until the specialty run industry sees this too? Tough to argue with science…just sayin

    • MarkC says:

      thanks Ryan….lets keep up the gentle nudges for folks to read this and try to get in flat, wide, unstructured shoes themselves for a few weeks. not to run but to walk around. I have yet to have a patient or customer not have a positive response from how this feels to the posture, muscles, and joints. almost the entire medical and nursing staff at my hospital are in flat shoes . They have learned from each other and from their own bodies, not from me. I do not push any of this out in my day job. Happy spring in the Big Easy. Mark

  4. Golden says:

    Huge news for all of us here at Altra footwear, as the first company to make cushioned Zero Drop, Foot-shaped running shoes!

    Super awesome to have some validation from a major organization like the ACSM!

    • Jim Hixson says:

      The authors also wrote:

      High, thick cushioning: Soft cushioning may
      actually encourage runners to adopt worse
      biomechanics and land with greater impact
      than shoes with less cushioning.

  5. Karl L says:

    It’s about time they finally came around. I work for the Air Force and have been pushing this for years now. It’s been very well received and has several Members scrating their heads why this is not being implemented throughout D.O.D. I agree with previos reply’s as well. Like the other person stated, it’s hard to argue with science. The shoes that I recommened to our Airmen and the corrective running patterns have made a significant dent in our Active Duty community. Thanks DR Mark!

  6. Peter Bird says:

    That was not a position paper or an official statement endorsed by the organisation. Should get your facts right before promoting it as such. Do you see it listed under “policies” or “position statements” or “guidelines” on the ACSM website? It was simply an information leaflet put out by staff from ACSM!

    • simon bartold says:

      Well said Peter.. this is so predictable that more misinformation will be spread… it is simply an opinion, by 2 people who apparently trained with a woman who’s life depends upon selling a minimalist product.. how can they possible be “objective and scientific”!!
      A simple brochure is nothing like a position paper.. stop trying to con your readers MArk!
      As for “an evidence based statement on minimal shoes is in the works”.. I can hardly wait..because there IS no evidence!

      • MarkC says:

        thanks Simon for posting….kevin and heather have 65 peer reviewed papers in pubmed. where are yours? i’m going w them

      • Dan Hoopes says:

        Simon and Peter, you share the names of two of the great iconoclasts of all time, but Apostolic Bearers of Truth…you are not.

        Everyone in the world has a background and many knowledgeable and successful people make a living by putting their high level of knowledge into practice. Attacking the authors of the Consumer Information Committee of the ACSM and the author of the above article instead of the actual content is a sign of sparse intellectual rigor. It’s a logical fallacy called the Ad Hominem attack.

        Sticking with just reason and logic, have you ever heard of the principle of the “Null Hypothesis?” Natural running principles do not need proof because running with nothing on (or footwear that best reproduces that state) is the true “default.” Shoes that alter the natural physiology of the human machine *do* need evidence. True, we do not need to be categorical, and we can make educated decisions that involve tradeoffs. However, the literature doesn’t say very much about the benefits of the modern running shoe while there is some evidence about the bad habits they encourage.

        I’ll refrain from using exclamation marks, since emotion should not be a part of a scientific and logical discussion. Nevertheless, I’ll ask: Where is the evidence for motion-control elevated-heel running shoes with lots of cushioning and “support?”

        • simon bartold says:

          What are you talking about..minimalist footwear has been endowed with powers it simply does not possess. I am unsure if you are up with the current literature, maybe not. In addition, the burden of proof lies with the body making a claim.. like.. “minimalism causes less injury, minimalism makes you strike differently, minimalism is more economic’.. to give just a few examples. The science does not support these statements. However.. you have laid out a smokescreen and not addressed the key issue. Peter and I simply stated that the ACSM “article’ was not..”a position statement” as Mark asserts.ACSM has plenty of position statements on all sorts of important topics in sports medicine. This not one of them. And to respond to MArk.. despite being a clinician, I have 18 papers published in high impact, peer reviewed journals.. and you?? I very much look forward to your “evidence based statement on minimal shoes is in the works”!

          • Dan Hoopes says:

            Simon, lets make the discussion really simple. Let’s not talk about minimalist shoes, because there is no clear definition of what that means. Let’s just say shoes vs no-shoes. We won’t endow powers on anyone or anything. Now, where is the evidence that shoes are better than no-shoes? If you are unsure if I am up on the current literature, please direct me to the pubmed links of the literature in which I am deficient. Please.

            Also, no-shoes DOES NOT NEED LITERATURE. It is the null-hypothesis. Anything besides bare feet need literature. However, we’re getting all stuck in the weeds. The issue isn’t *really* footwear. It’s stride. And new-fangled shoes encourage poor form. There is a chance that footwear may allow for a longer stride and that could explain some performance gains with little to no injury from putting shoes on…people who grew up not wearing shoes. Everyone else (we westerners) gets shoved right into those bad habits as soon as our parents can slap our little baby hands away from the straps holding those contraptions on our feet so long ago.

            Modern shoes encourage heel strike and a long stride. Do that without shoes and you’ll get all kinds of stress fractures and pain. Your body will tell you it is bad either quickly or slowly. But it will always tell you. Watch people run that never wore shoes or wore them very little and you’ll see a different stride. Maybe they will win a race that day, but their stride will be different.

            So, please tell me: What are you trying to say? Is it that modern shoes protect from injury? Or that they make someone run faster? Or that they encourage good habits? Or that they look cool? Or that they make some people a lot of money? What is your argument? Is it all one way and categorical? Shoes good / No-shoes bad?

            Nothing in the world is categorical. If you are a scientist, you must allow that everything in the universe is balancing a knife-edge of tradeoffs. There are no free lunches. If you posit that modern shoes lead to performance gains, please be honest with yourself and your audience that that likely comes with an increased risk of chronic injury. On the flip side, I am pretty honest when I advise people to either go shoeless or find a shoe that works the most like the naked foot as possible and I tell them that they might get made fun-of or look odd. Most of society believes like you do: that everyone wears shoes and it would be crazy to talk about everyone not wearing them. That’s just not the way it’s done.

            One last thing. You state that:
            “…no one.. no one at all, knows what a “natural position” is, or “natural function”. In addition, I do not see this being answered anytime soon because there is too much human variability and the human locomotor system is way to complex, especially the foot.”

            Soooooooo. HOW is some shoe company supposed to make a shoe to fix or even address foot or running issues if they don’t understand what they’re addressing? It’s kinda like a person walking into an Emergency Room, saying that their stomach hurts, and then the doc just moving right ahead with a stomach-ectomy. The patient might argue: “But you don’t know what’s wrong, aren’t you going to do some studies first to nail down my exact diagnosis?” Doc then says “Nope, we’ve gotta do something, so we’ll just take that bag in there that’s sloshing around with acid. That can’t be right. Who would ever design an abdomen with a bag of acid in it? I don’t know natural abdomens or even their function because there is way too much human variability and complexity. But one thing’s for sure: I know that acid bag needs to come out right now. Enjoy your nap during the surgery.”

          • MarkC says:

            Thanks Dan,
            Simon I do not know what natural or neutral means if you want me to paint a universal picture of it that fits all. What I do know is that the foot like every other part of the body needs to be strong, mobile, and functional. Simon if you are an open book on all this why is your site $300 to join. we all should just be sharing what we are trying to figure out as we go into the rabbit hole together. Maybe i’ll make the roadie to Boston.


        • Matthias Marx says:

          This is right on the money. Is there any other animal with legs that needs external support and cushioning to stand, walk, or run? Evolution has been the scientific laboratory that has proved humans stand and move barefoot. What is the evidence that modern running shoes have been successful? Has the incidence and severity of running injuries diminished in the last 35 years, since the introduction of these shoes? How do barefoot people today survive? The pain must be so incredible that they need to constantly be replacing their feet.

      • Roland says:

        Is this the Simon Bartold, International research coordinator for Asics? The Simon Bartold, “who’s life depends upon selling” his product — playing the part of the “bullshit detector” calling poop on minimalist footware? Just so we know.

        • MarkC says:

          Yes this is the Simon Bartold who loves to attack people as well as the science and principles that do not align with him and Asics. I am aware there is ALOT we do not know but I’m sticking to the null hypothesis that a shoe should complement natural foot anatomy as stated earlier. Cannot believe that he attacks Harvard Grad and former Department Chair at UVA Dr Casey Kerrigan who has changed the way we all think through her science and clinical work. Mark

          • simon bartold says:

            Once more you have your facts wrong MArk.. I don’t work for ASICS! And I do not attack people as you assert, only statements that might contribute to injury. As I have said to you many times, you are more than welcome to your own opinion, but you need to be current and accurate. Is the fact that Casey Kerrigan is from HArvard some reason for me to be in awe? She has not changed the way i think, or many i know, at all. We go with the evidence.

          • MarkC says:

            Simon I’ll defer comment and let the readers figure out for themselves what works best for them and what “evidence” they believe. I think the body is pretty smartly designed and the foot needs to be in a natural position and function naturally. if it does not fix the foot, not the shoe. that is all. That is what Dr Kerrigan teaches and has researched. Adaptations to the base affect things up the chain in negative ways. love the discussions and I have think skin…so keep it coming. who are you working for now? it would be fun to do a debate again and then share a beer. I think we have a lot in common and a few things we disagree on. what fun would it be otherwise. all the best Mark

        • simon bartold says:

          Nope.. I do not work for ASICS

          • Matthias Marx says:

            I just watched your, oh, so brilliant comments on the Barefoot Running Debate on YouTube. Your speech was erudite, almost professorial and reminded me of a slightly older Daniel Lieberman. It was amazing how you were able to stifle your incredible arrogance. You’ll never survive on Podiatry Arena with the likes of Craig Payne and Kevin Kirby unless you learn how to drip sarcasm every now and then. You know, like this post:)

            By the way, the title of the video was: Simon Bartold of ASICS on Running Biomechanics, so I’m assuming that you were employed by that famous footwear company at one time. Also, in your next video could you actually talk about biomechanics? Thanks!

          • Arturo says:

            From your linked in profile:

            Principle Podiatrist
            Simon Bartold
            1983 – 2013 (30 years)

            Private, athlete-only care practice, 1985-present
            International Research Consultant ASICS Global 2000-2013
            Fellow, The University of Melbourne
            fellow,Staffordshire University, U.K.

    • Jim Hixson says:

      It’s nice to see some podiatrists migrating from Podiatry Arena over to a site that looks at the evidence a little more closely than that group. I’m so excited to think that Simon Bartold or Craig Payne might pop over for some brilliant one-liners. This is most exciting!

  7. Finally a No-BS guide to buying good running shoes. Thank you for clarifiying this for me without trying to sell me a shoe.

  8. simon bartold says:

    no problem Mark.. I will be lecturing at the World Congress of Biomechanics meeting in Boston in July.. not too far from you.. perhaps it would be possible.. always up for a beer. My problem with your comment is that no one.. no one at all, knows what a “natural position” is, or “natural function”. In addition, I do not see this being answered anytime soon because there is too much human variability and the human locomotor system is way to complex, especially the foot. That said.. I am sure there are things we agree on!
    I work for myself, researching at Melbourne and Staffordshire Universities and administering my website Whilst I always considered myself quite independent when i consulted to ASICS.. perhaps too independent for their liking, I would never re-enter that world. I prefer to be able to form my own views and comment as I wish. Best Simon

  9. eric johnson says:

    i hope i lend a unique perspective. i am a retail guy who has been “on both sides” of the spectrum.

    I manage a retail running store and we started out in 2008 very much into providing “more stability and support” rather than less. we attempted to video tape from behind and match the shoe to the degree of pronation we saw. hell, if we were unsure, we usually erred on the side of more stability and cushioning just in case.

    I fell in love with the idea of minimalism a couple years later and drastically changed the way we sold shoes to our customers. i went to natural running conferences, met all the famous guys, and learned a lot. I payed close attention to the guidelines that dr mark and others gave me.

    We did everything that was recommended to ensure a safe transition for our customers…told them to start very very slow, drastically reduce mileage, stick to soft surfaces, etc. we sold VFF’s but rarely recommended them. we mostly utilized 4mm shoes such as kinvaras, mirages, and the brooks pure line to err on the side of caution.

    the only problem is that we had tons of people coming back hurt. our competition started marketing themselves as the store to come to after they got hurt from running in our low drop cushioned and non cushioned shoes.

    i spent a lot of time reading everything i could get my hands on… everything from the articles from the NRC, blaise dubois, simon, craig, published research, and so on.

    what i’ve come to understand is that everyone is different and there is value in everything from vibram five fingers to altra instincts (my personal favorite work/daily shoe) to 4mm cushioned shoes to 12mm neutral shoes to stability shoes to oversized shoes such as hokas.

    it was very difficult for me to give up my minimalist stance. really hard to admit that i was wrong and probably did more harm than good for a time.

    i have a former employee who can only run in VFF’s to avoid pain. I also have customers who can only run in hokas for the same reason.

    why do we have to always pick a side? like ross tucker likes to say, if there’s a polarizing argument in science, usually the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    i like to run in about 6 different shoes right now…altra torin, merrill trail glove, mizuno sayonara, brooks ghost, saucony kinvara, and hoka stinson. my body hurts the least when i mix my shoes and surfaces up regularly.

    i really like Dr. Mark and really appreciate that he can remain civil when people get so worked up about these things.

    there really never was any data to show that super bulky and cushioned shoes were better for everyone. it does appear that the last couple of years have given us evidence that leads us away from the “less is more” shoe debate and more toward the middle. so that’s where i’m at until convinced otherwise.

  10. Henry says:

    When everyone talks about the natural foot design and function, and how we should allow our feet to go unprotected or minimally protected in our walking/running environments, why doesn’t anyone talk about the fact that asphalt and concrete (and loose rocks) are far from a natural environment. I’m not a foot scientist, but it is only logical to me that harsher environments should call for more protection. That is why I run in minimal drop, low cushion shoes for short runs (Brooks Pure line), but switch to higher cushion shoes for longer distances (Hoka line). I walk barefoot or in my socks around the house, in my yard and occasionally at work, but would never even consider such in the harsh environments otherwise. I love the way God designed my feet, but I need to protect them as much as the environment dictates.

  11. Kerry R says:

    It’s less about the shoe and stride mechanics and far more about the tendency of most athletes to do far too much far too soon, and to adopt food and life-style choices that provide additional “hidden” stresses that inhibit adaptation to training load.

    I suspect shoe companies know this to some extent. I think this is at least partly why they get away with abandoning our favorite shoe lines year after year in favor of the next big thing.

  12. Run says:

    Great information! Thank you for sharing about selecting running shoes.

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