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The Shoe Fitting Process is Bullshit: An Open Letter to Shoe Salespeople

Posted by on Jun 1, 2011 | 44 Comments

To whom it may concern:

I have traveled to many different running stores to inquire about the process used to fit traditional running shoes.  To properly assess the process, I claimed to be a complete novice.  At every store but one, I was given three tests.

The Tests

The first test involved taking the measurements of my foot with a Brannock device.  Most of the stores gave me the same size- 11.5.  One told me my size was an 11.

The second test always consisted of a “gait analysis” of some sort.  Sometimes this was done while running on a treadmill.  Sometimes I was asked to run around the store.  In one case, I ran on the sidewalk outside the store.  That particular store seemed especially adept at marketing!  Kudos.

After each test, I was told I had one of several conditions.  Most stores told me I over-pronate.  Two said I had a neutral gait.  One claimed I supinate.

The third test involved measuring my arch and/or weight distribution.  This was done with either some sort of “wet test” or a machine similar to the Dr. Scholl’s machine next to the Walmart pharmacy.  For the wet test, I was asked to step in a pan of water then step on a piece of paper.  For the Walmart test, I simply stood on the machine and it gave a graphic thermal-looking readout on a screen.

Both tests came back the same- I have medium to high arches.  Most of the store recommended I purchase a third-party arch support after they select my shoes.

The Shoes

At this point, every employee did the exact same thing.  They disappeared to a back room and brought out several boxes of shoes that matched my “profile.”  I was then asked to test each pair by parading around in front of the sales clerk.  They would usually make a few comments about each pair. It seemed they were looking for the pair that eliminated my pronation “problem.”

Eventually they would narrow the choice down to two or three pair to choose from.  At this point, I began asking questions about the fitting process.  I first asked if they were accurate.  All confidently answered “yes.”  The second question was “Where did these tests originate?”  Much to my surprise, not a single shoe clerk knew the origins.

I then asked how they knew these tests were valid- how do you know they actually measure what they are supposed to measure?  Most vaguely mentioned science.  Two said “biomechanics”, and one said “It’s just the way it has always been.”

For those that gave the science-based answers, I pushed further by asking if they knew of any specific research that supports the “gait analysis” or “wet test.”  None had an answer.

The Big Question

Is this a case of a few poorly-trained employees that I just happened to find by dumb luck, or could it be that the entire “shoe fitting” process is a house of cards that is easily destroyed by the slightest breeze of skepticism?

The sizing test with the Brannock Device seems pretty legitimate.  After all, you do not want a shoe that is unnecessarily big or small.  Bt what about the other two tests?  How valid are they?

To try to find answers, I scoured the literature.  I did not find a single scholarly article that even suggests either of these tests are in any way useful. I did, however, find one study that seemed interesting.  Their conclusion was:

The findings of this study suggest that our current approach of prescribing in-shoe pronation control systems on the basis of foot type is overly simplistic and potentially injurious.

This was interesting, especially considering Gordon Valiant, the second author, is a Nike researcher.

The Challenge

My challenge to any running shoe employee- can you defend either of these tests with anything other than “this is the way we’ve always done it?” If you can, please post a link to your supporting evidence.  I would also accept evidence that overstriding with a heel strike is in any way natural or beneficial.  If you cannot, please explain how you can continue to use these tests in the absence of supporting evidence.

I would urge you to reconsider your fitting process and consider the “shoes as tools” paradigm.  Customers will select shoes based on their needs for protection without influencing their natural gait instead of recommending shoes that eliminate natural motion and promote landing on their heel.

Thank you for your time, it is greatly appreciated.

Warm regards,

-Jason Robillard

 

###

Postscript

The running world is changing.  Some people are hip to it.  Some are not.  Empirical research has consistently supported the ideas of good running form and/or barefoot running.  Research has also debunked the myth of the current “find shoes that fix bad form using a silly fitting process” paradigm.  Even the medical community is beginning to take notice.

I recently had two conversations with long-time running industry insiders.  One was Curt Munson, co-owner of Playmakers running store in Okemos, Michigan and recent inductee into the Running Retailers Hall of Fame.  The conversation can be summed up in one quote from Curt (paraphrased): “I was wrong for 25 years.  I’m just thankful I was open to the idea that I was wrong, and have spent the last five years making up for it.”

Curt was talking about teaching running form.  He taught people to heel strike for 25 years, because everybody else was doing it.  He had the courage to admit he was wrong and correct course.  This led to the development of Good Form Running, a great system to learn good running form.

I compare this to another conversation I had with a gentleman I’d prefer to keep anonymous.  This conversation can also be summed up with a single quote, again paraphrased: “I know the research, but how can I change now?  I’ve spend 25 years preaching one thing, now I’m just supposed to change?  How would my customers ever trust me?”

There are a lot of people in the running industry that are choosing to ignore what is becoming increasingly obvious- running form is important and the vast majority of shoes manufactured today inhibit good form and encourage bad form.  As the next few months unfold, those that choose to stick their heads in the sand shouldn’t be surprised when they are surprised.

To use some ideas borrowed from Seth Godin, these people likely have:

1. An emotional attachment to a specific future outcome (barefoot and minimalist shoe running is a fad that will fade away, research will prove that heel striking is natural, etc.), and

2. Resistance and a fear of change.

They are deliberately trying to imagine a future that is safe and predictable, which simply mirrors the past.  The only way to do this is to willingly ignore the mounting evidence of the likely future.

What Can You Do

Suppose you are one of the few actually in the industry that CAN see the change.  What do you do?  The steps are simple:

Step 1: Lead by example. You don’t have to preach, simply go about your business.  Your success will be noticed and eventually emulated by those around you.

Step 2: Continue to learn. We don’t have all the answers.  Search out new ideas, including those you disagree with.

Step 3: Connect. Connect with open-minded customers, sales reps, store owners, store employees, industry insiders, whatever.  There are a lot of us that see the changes happening around us.  Seek us out.  There is power in numbers.

Step 4: Passive Agitation. Encourage those with their head in the sand to start thinking critically.  Plant the seed.  Leave some barefoot running literature lying around the break room at your store.  Send them this post.  ;-)

 

If you know anyone in the shoe industry, send them this post.  It’s about time we develop some legitimate, honest dialogue on the issue of these bullshit tests.

 

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44 Comments

  1. Flightstick
    June 7, 2011

    For years, I damaged my feet with heel strike. Now I run barefoot and landing on the balls of my feet. The pain has gone. I wear shoes only when running on roadside pavements and grounds that have sharp stones and branch twigs.

  2. Kevin Schell
    June 3, 2011

    “I did not find a single scholarly article that even suggests either of these tests are in any way useful.”

    Without further explanation of your methods, this isn’t a very useful statement.

    How did you conduct your literature search? Which database(s) did you search? What search terms did you use? What was your inclusion/exclusion criteria?

    The hypotheses that our current running shoe fitting paradigm is not evidence based is a good one (there is support in the literature) but if we’re going to succeed in leading people to believe our hypotheses we’ve got to know how to conduct a literature review.

    Many barefoot running proponents talk about science but don’t seem to respect the way science works. Science is not about creating two diametrically opposed hypotheses (e.g., traditional running shoes vs. barefoot running). It is about creating multiple hypotheses, testing them, analyzing data, measuring effect sizes and making leaps to new hypotheses based on the effects found previously.

    We need to be more patient and objective if we want people to join the movement.

    • Jason
      June 4, 2011

      Kevin- This blog is not intended to be scholarly in nature, nor was my analysis intended to be a peer-reviewed literature review. I am not conducting a any sort of peer-reviewed experimentation. I’m just making observations about our little slice of the universe.

      I’m not in a position to conduct the science. If I were interested in conducting research, my writing would have a much different tone.

      I AM in a position to help persuade other more capable individuals and groups to conduct the research, though. Part of that persuasion involves highlighting the dichotomy between natural running and heel striking/ overstriding.

      Some of my peers, specifically people like Pete Larson at runblogger.com, routinely tackle these issues from a more scientific point of view. I’m aiming for a more general audience.

      Having said that, I WAS trained as an experimental psychologist back in the day, and am familiar with the process of conducting a lit. review. I’ve spent about five years scouring various databases, such as PEI, SportDiscus, Ebsco, PubMed, ProQuest, ERIC, JSTOR, and the ever-popular Google Scholar. Search terms vary based on the specific inquiry. I also back-track through references of other relevant published articles. I stand by my original statement- using this methodology, I have not found a single article that even suggests the shoe fitting tests are reliable or valid. ;-)

      • Kevin Schell
        June 4, 2011

        Fair enough. You know the title of your blog has the word “University” in it, right. ;-)

        I read Pete’s blog religiously. I just finished reading his most recent post a minute ago in which he takes on ASICS head of research Simon Bartold. Great read. Bartold responded to Pete in the comment section.

        One thing I hope we can agree on is that there is a dearth of evidence to support either side of this debate at this time and much work needs to be done.

        • Jason
          June 4, 2011

          BRU is a “university” in the “beer bongs and wet t-shirt contest” sense… not so much the “tweed coat and musty books” sense. :-)

          • Kevin Schell
            June 6, 2011

            Your reply made me think of the Calvin and
            Hobbes daily in which Calvin asks his father,”What does it mean when someone says to ‘give it the ol’ college try?’ and his father responds, “It means you join your friends, get some cheap beer, buy a pizza, and forget about tomorrow.”

  3. Diggs
    June 3, 2011

    Great post Jason, I am one of the shoe fitting salespeople and a barefoot runner. I have issues with all 3 tests. The brannock is obsolete, it gives true foot size but each company has their own size standards, you may measure a 10 and be anywhere from a 9 to an 11 depending on the brand and the shoe.

    The other two tests are exactly as you say-no science behind them.However it is difficult to change a companies way of doing business when your upper echelon of suits promote these tests as policy within the store to sell shoes.It is instilled in our customers to have one of these “tests” done in order for us to have credibility within our footwear department. How would you propose a change to the “oldguard” in order for a more effective shoe fitting experience?(FYI-I go out of my way to fit by feel and educate customers on running form and avoid the “tests”)

  4. Dave
    June 3, 2011

    I got into a discussion about my scaling down to mimimalist shoes with a shoe salesperson and he accused me of being “brainwashed.” Imagine that, the pot was calling the kettle black. I purchased my Saucony Hattoris elsewhere.

  5. Barefoot Running University
    June 2, 2011

    […] by Jason on Jun 2, 2011 | No Comments Two days ago I wrote about the shoe fitting process.  I challenged the current shoe fitting paradigm.  The pupose of the post was to begin dialogue […]

  6. Patton Gleason
    June 2, 2011

    JR-Another great post. It brings up an interesting question about an industry that is widely regarded as very healthy, yet many of the things a traditional running store do are not backed up by data, only by dogma. On a gut level I don’t suspect any running store (or podiatrist, orthopedist, etc) has malicious intent, but is just misguided. To their credit most people are doing exactly what they have been taught and trying not to stray to far from it.

    As a culture we have a pretty serious aversion to trying something new and my guess is most of the time it is for fear of being wrong. If you always do things the same way, you may not necessarily like the outcome but you know exactly what it is going to be. It is a way to exercise passive control.

    I have been in the running industry a long time and this is easily the biggest ethical dilemma I have seen it face. Natural running, barefoot and minimalist challenge every conventional philosophy the running industry has had. I don’t think this is a bad thing for anyone involved. There is huge upside to a customer who is learning about optimal running form and technique. There is upside for a store because you can carry fewer products, do a ton more teaching and hopefully have a more active customer base because fewer people are getting injured.

    This was a gutsy post and one that I really appreciated. Certa resistencia.

  7. Roses
    June 2, 2011

    I went to New Balance to try on their minimus trail shoe. I run mostly barefoot but I wanted a shoe for casual wear. I don’t think the sales guy had ever fitted a barefooter before and treated me like I was clueless about barefooting. Shoe companies may be going in the right direction but they need to enlighten their employees.

  8. Dave from Austin
    June 2, 2011

    Hey Jason, great post. Shoe stores seem to be improving in that many have started to carry the minimalist shoes. The salespeople still do not know how to sell them. However the consumer may have heard about them and want to give it a try. They then proceed to run with the same bad form, get a stress fracture and then blame the shoe. Argh!!! What did Keith Olbermann do on Letterman in the foot cast? He blamed the five fingers.

    The smart stores are making money from training runners how to run. That’s a repeat customer for life. Shoes need to evolve into not being the focus. They should be like underwear. Optional protection when you need it.

  9. ZoeB
    June 2, 2011

    You know, I’ve actually always wanted to do this, go into a running store and see how little the employees know. I think we have the VFFs partly to thank for the growing minimalist popularity, because they attract so much attention. Every time I’ve been in REI lately, there’ve been VVF boxes everywhere. I think it would be better if everyone just started running barefoot, but the VVFs are some kind of gateway…

  10. Rob
    June 2, 2011

    It also doesn’t help when shoe store employees are given incentives to sell a certain quota of over the counter arch support insoles! I’ve learned that a local running store practices this, possibly getting people to use orthodics even though they don’t need them! Getting fit in the wrong shoe is one thing, but lying to people that they “need” an orthodic is a whole different level of dishonesty. I’ve heard from more than a few folks who felt miserable with the orthodics and so started running w/o them and viola! No discomfort! It’s one thing to be an educated consumer/runner and know what you want, entirely different for a newbie who has no clue and is trusting the shoe store to take care of their needs.

  11. Andrew Streit
    June 2, 2011

    Hi there,

    I am English and read your blog with interest. I just got fitted for a more “minimalist” pair of shoes the other day, but I had to seek out the “specialist” store through the Saucony website. 90% of our major online and high street stores are still where the US was 3 years ago I estimate. They don’t stock more “minimalist” shoes or really racing flats that could be.

    My reason for wanting new shoes was that I was getting severe arch pain and numbness in my Brooks GTS 11 control shoe. I therefore did some research and it seems that you Americans are ahead of the game on this “minimalist” front!! I will describe the fitting process- which for England is way above average:

    1. What is your size and what do you currently run in (these are always the first two questions) ME “I run in an 8 normally. I want a more minimalist shoe though.” He brings me some 8s and 8.5s in what I think are really known as transitional shoes you’re way. He doesn’t fall into the trap of bringing me shoes from my recent shoe history thankfully.
    2. I get on the tread mill. He does a good gait analysis. He talks me through pronation and what my foot is doing on each stride. You are a slight heel striker who is relatively neutral. No wonder you are getting arch pain he says!!
    3. He gives me the Brooks Green Silence and Progrid Mirage, in different sizes as he knows how they fit generally. I run around outside unsupervised in both pairs.
    4. He asks me how I felt. I then prompt questions about my arches and the fact I have wide feet. They are ignored.

    So no wet foot test and no specific size test. This is standard.

    In the end I buy the Progrid Mirage. A decent choice from the limited shoes we have available here. But and this is the but, I think he thought I needed the stability post in it BECAUSE I had come from a stability shoe. He didn’t let me try on the Kinvara and he did shoe me the Hautori (which is a sickkk looking shoe) and pointed out that that is a shoe I should be progressing towards.

    In the end he was far more open minded than the average shoe fitter and at least he showed me the Hautori. I also mentioned one or two shoes I had read about and he suggested they had too much cushioning or heel for where I wanted to be going. I therefore felt he had more knowledge than the average, but probably not that much more than I had gained in 3-4 days feverishly reading on the internet.

  12. John Doe
    June 2, 2011

    Before I say this, keep in mind I am someone who trains barefoot and in the Altra Instinct (90-110 mpw).

    The minimalist movement is a wonderful thing, I believe it will stay with us and is NOT a fad. The age of super supportive shoes is dying.

    However, I believe that the majority of people going into running stores don’t care about form, technique, or any of the intricate biomechanics of correct running. They just want a shoe that keeps them comfortable.

    The industry has shaped itself around customer satisfaction. We minimalists and barefoot runners also have our own voice, and have made an impact in how running shoe companies are designing their shoes. Lower heel drops, less support, lower weight. It’s all because of our movement.

    However, we are only a small portion of the consumer base.

    Most people are still too lazy to care about running correctly and just want to go out and run so they can shed a few pounds and feel better about pounding down a couple more triple bacon cheeseburgers.

    They want to feel comfortable and do things without effort. Thus when they come into our running stores, they generally want a shoe that makes things easy. That may mean a shoe the provides support or extra cushion because they don’t want to take the time to transition to minimalist running, strengthen their arches, or change their foot-strike.

    Many running stores (well, the good ones anyway) are carrying minimalist running shoes like fivefingers, altra, merrell barefoot, terra plana and more. I almost cannot contain myself when a customer comes in interested in minimalist/barefoot running. I love it. I explain the changes they’ll need to make in their form, suggest a couple exercises that can help strengthen the right muscles, remind them to take things slow. Most importantly, I explain how much more awesome their running is going to become should they choose to follow this path.

    Unfortunately, most of the customers don’t care. They just want a shoe that allows them to get outside and be active. I have no problem with people getting more physical activity into their lives. Maybe they should be going the minimalist route, but it is ultimately up to the customer to decide what they want.

    So instead of bashing our fitting process, keep in mind that it is based on fitting someone who doesn’t care about running form.

    We know (or at least the educated employees do) that pronation is a natural way of the body distributing force. That when the runner is a natural forefoot striker (even with heel drop) that most of the time they won’t need support.

    Instead of talking behind our backs, tell us you are a barefoot/minimalist runner or someone who is interested in that stuff, and we won’t need to worry about the gait analysis.

    The industry is formed around the consumer. So instead of getting angry at us, you should be angry at all the people who want those bulked up shoes, or those doctors, Physical Therapists, and Podiatrists who demand that we give their patients super supportive shoes (like the Brooks Beast) even when they may not need them.

    I really have enjoyed reading and following your posts until this one. We are just trying to do our job and give people what they want. If you want something different, speak up and tell us. Don’t go on the Internet and blast us behind our backs.

    When the general public is educated about good running form and actually practices it, then we can drop the gait analysis tests. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen, since like I said, most people don’t care. I applaud those of you who have educated yourselves and are running barefoot or minimalist. Every single time I get to work with one of you, it makes my day.

    • John Doe
      June 2, 2011

      Also, the majority of people I try to talk to about good running form don’t care. They will actively tell me they don’t want to hear about it. So I just don’t say anything unless they ask or if them seem like a dedicated/educated/interested runner.

    • John Doe
      June 2, 2011

      Our goal is to put you in a shoe that will make you most comfortable. So if you need a pair of minimalist or barefoot-like shoes, tell us!! We want to help you.

    • John Doe
      June 2, 2011

      I’m also well aware of all the research that says that fitting a person based on their plantar profile has no correlation with injury prevention.

      Again, the gait analysis gives us an idea, but it is not the end-all decision. What matters most is how the customer feels. If they look like they need a supportive shoe but they don’t like it, I’ll go to a neutral shoe. If the customer thinks the heel lift is too much, I get really excited and get to bring out the shoes (or lack of) that I am most passionate about.

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      John- thank you for the response. I agree- the CONSUMER is what drives the need for the current fitting process. This is why I go to such great lengths to build grassroots efforts to educate about good running form. The vast majority of my efforts are aimed at the running and non-running public. My goal is to get every single one of your customers to go into the store and ask you about minimalist shoes.

      THANK YOU for being one of the salespeople that understands the nuances of barefoot and minimalist shoe running. People like you are an incredible gift to your customers.

      Unfortunately not all shoe store employees take your approach. They don’t understand that the fitting process is the catch-all to appease the people that are too lazy to take the time to learn even the basics about good running form. They believe ALL runners wear either motion control, stability, or neutral shoes without considering the possibility that there a fourth option. The fitting process does not allow for that.

      The point of sale would be an absolutely wonderful opportunity to plant a seed in the mind of the customer that there is such thing as good running form. Some stores have really embraced this idea, including many of my local running specialty stores. The results are awesome! Lots of people learning to run properly, all because these stores embraced the idea that the fitting process is flawed.

      If you agree there’s a right and a wrong way to run, why not do everything possible to teach people how to do it right? We (bloggers) are in a better position to do this than you guys that work in the stores, but you can also play a valuable role.

      If every running store employee had your point of view, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Over time, we’d make sure ALL your customers came in and inquired about minimalist shoes. :-)

  13. steven sashen
    June 1, 2011

    Assuming that there’s ANYTHING to fitting, here’s one thing that none of the sales clerks will do:

    See if your foot is a “curved, neutral, or straight” shape and pick a shoe that has a sole (the last) that’s the same shape.

    In the shoe making world, these ideas of foot shape are common knowledge. And shoes are designed to match ONE of them. But nobody ever checks to see if YOUR feet are the same as the shoe’s assumption.

    I had a product developer at a major “barefoot” shoe company tell me “We know that the last we use doesn’t fit 70% of the population.”

    BTW, this explains, in part, why you have have a dozen different size 9s and they’ll all fit you differently.

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      Good insight, Steven. This is a perfect example of WHY we need education. Keep up the great work, man!

  14. Frances aka "Barefoot Fresca"
    June 1, 2011

    The running shoe tests are just the “foot” in the door. Just wait until you realize that almost everything else is like this too, including much of what’s being practiced in our doctors offices!!!

    If you start asking the same kind of questions of your doctors and their tests and measurements, you will find the same kind of “well, this is what we all do,” kind of answers. Only 15% of treatments used by doctors have been proven effective by randomize controlled studies.

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      Frances- I’ll be discussing the medical community in a future post, too. Heh, heh, heh!

    • Kevin Schell
      June 2, 2011

      Research is certainly one tool that we can use to broaden our understanding of the current running shoe fitting paradigm. But randomized controlled studies are not the be all end all. Research requires a lot of resources and the results of the even the most cleverly designed studies are often inconclusive or demonstrate very small effect sizes that cannot be replicated. Conversely, there are many interventions and paradigms with no research to support their use that work well for lots of people. A lack of evidence (supporting or refuting) shouldn’t lead one to assume that something doesn’t work.

  15. kelly
    June 1, 2011

    a running store opened up in Cookeville this year by a runner that I respect. Here’s his store:

    http://www.foothillsrunningcompany.com/

    Here’s what he says about his fitting process (I like the last sentence best):

    Before you run out the door with your new shoes, we want to make sure you are in the proper footwear. While some of you may walk into our store knowing what you want and need, we want to make sure that the rest of you get the help you deserve from people that know how to help.

    For those of you that do want help, here are some things to expect from our fitting process:

    Our goal is to help you be more comfortable while running so that you can run more, be injured less, and come back to our store often. ;)

    The fitting process may vary a bit from customer to customer. Your own personal experience might even vary as your needs as a runner change over time. The important thing to remember is that we are always here to help by providing as much (or as little) help as you need. No more…no less…but just the right amount.

    Bringing in your old shoes can be a big help to us. By looking at the wear pattern on each sole, we can gain insight into your footstrike and what type of shoe you might like.

    Don’t hesitate to tell us what you’re feeling during the fitting process. Your feedback will help us provide better guidance to you and our other customers.

    Finding a proper running shoe is not an exact science. For most customers, there will typically be more than one pair of shoes that will work. The decision of what shoes to purchase and wear will ultimately be yours. We can guide and advise you, but only you will know what feels best.

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      Kelly- they sound like good people. I appreciate their honesty. It would be great if they went a step further and instructed people HOW to run with better form. :-)

  16. Tyro
    June 1, 2011

    Probably my favourite post you’ve done, thank you for this. It reminds me a little of astrology – no matter how detailed the charts, no matter how precise the measurements, the foundation is so flawed that the answers will be meaningless. In a weird way, shoe fitting is worse since it does have a real theory at its heart so precision could easily do you more harm than good.

    I’ve been reluctant to discuss these things with real shoe salespeople because I don’t want to kick up a fuss. Instead I just avoid The Running Room and other stores that stick to their dogma. Maybe we should speak out a bit, let them know why we’re avoiding their stores.

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      Tyro- I like the idea of influencing with your wallet. It’s always good to let people know why you choose not to frequent their business. It may not change their mind, but it plants a seed.

  17. martin
    June 1, 2011

    Another fairly damning study about the fitting process involved a large number of marine corps recruits. The military has good reasons to try to be objective about these things. Check out http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20576837 .

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      Thanks for the link Martin, I debated posting that one, too.

  18. Jamoosh
    June 1, 2011

    I wonder if it is impossible to fit shoes (running or otherwise) in the traditional sense. Each month or so another study is released that shows us how much we don’t know about running (with or without shoes).

    A couple of months ago I was reading that a “minor” heal strike may not be so bad based on the pressure created by the foot hitting the ground and how it is ditributed.

    huh…

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      Jamoosh- I agree, “fitting” shoes should ideally be done by the consumer, not a salesperson. Unfortunately, that requires A LOT of consumer education directed at a population that simply doesn’t care. It’s a tough nut to crack, though not impossible. :-)

  19. None
    June 1, 2011

    “My challenge to any running shoe employee- can you defend either of these tests with anything other than “this is the way we’ve always done it?” If you can, please post a link to your supporting evidence. I would also accept evidence that overstriding with a heel strike is in any way natural or beneficial. If you cannot, please explain how you can continue to use these tests in the absence of supporting evidence.”

    I would imagine many running store employees continue to use those tests because they are instructed by the store owners or supervisors to do so. I think your post should be aimed at the people who instruct or train running store employees.

    As I see it, the big schism here is that running stores want to sell products. “Diagnosing” runners into different needs categories is probably a pretty successful way to sell shoes to them. For example, it seems like a pretty universal experience to have a running store salesperson “discover” something wrong with the shoes you’re currently wearing. “Those may not be the best shoes for you…based on my expertise these should work better.” Now they haven’t just sold you a pair of shoes, they’ve also fixed a problem for you and the implication is they’ve done something much more important than sold you shoes. In fact, all they’ve really done is…sold you shoes.

    Sure, they want you to be happy because they want you to come back. But the whole shoe type/pronate/insert expertise is just sales baloney to increase the likelihood that you will perceive they’ve done something more for you, and hence return.

    I’m not sure why that is so offensive. First, it should only cause a major crisis for people whose critical thinking skills are a bit lacking…in other words, anything a salesperson says is automatically subject to higher scrutiny because they have an interest in whether their ‘expertise’ influences your behavior. Second, there may not be much much evidence-based science FOR the way running shoe store employees “diagnose” people into a particular shoe, but there isn’t much evidence-based science AGAINST it either. That’s a big part of why the study you linked is so interesting.

    I think the discussion here (http://www.runblogger.com/2010/07/pronation-control-paradgim-is-starting.html) provides a much better dissection of what the study actually says and doesn’t say. Linking to a journal abstract is kind of like linking to a shoe manufacturer’s ad copy blurb…abstracts are purposely written to maximize the impact of the findings, not necessarily to summarize.

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      None- Shoe store owners are going to be addressed in a future post. As far as people using critical thinking skills- that’s the major goal of this blog… educating the public. That takes time.

      Thanks for the link to Pete’s post- that IS a great discussion. My goal for this post wasn’t to create a discussion on that particular study, rather I wanted to challenge store employees to defend the use of the tests. I want THEM to think critically, too.

  20. Chris
    June 1, 2011

    Thanks for this. I’ve been exploring barefoot running, proper-running form, and minmalist/reduced running shoes. I’m baby-stepping towards them, and one of the hurdles I’m still getting over is the idea I’ll hurt myself — I was told I need “motion control” shoes years ago, and I’ve got this idea in my head that if I don’t have those “right” shoes I’ll destroy my knees or ankles or my feet will explode or something. Where did the whole “motion control” and “stability” model come from?

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      Chris- both shoe “technologies” seemed to evolve once heel striking went from a weird thing a handful of runners did to the accepted way to run.

  21. Barefoot TJ
    June 1, 2011

    Brilliant, as always, Jason! I am so glad you chose this battle. It’s been a pet peeve of mine for years now. It’s high time this BS stops! THANK YOU! -TJ

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      It wouldn’t have been possible if you hadn’t given us a forum to discuss these issues, TJ. Thank YOU! ;-)

  22. barefootbendywendy
    June 1, 2011

    Great post.Thanks.

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      Thanks Wendy!

  23. robb zimmerman
    June 1, 2011

    how can the customers trust the anonymous vendor if they knew he is aware his approach is wrong and won’t change it for fear of the implications?

    • Jason
      June 2, 2011

      Robb- the problem is many are just doing what they are told and are not even aware of the issue of good form and bad form. The ultimate solution is an informed public, shoe store owners, and manufacturers, but informed salespeople will also help.

  24. Eric Cooper
    June 1, 2011

    A great post. The notion of becoming aware that one had done something wrong for 25years while believing it was the right thing. I know that feeling.