The raised heel shoe. Is it a good thing? Some believe it is. In some cases (unrelated to running) it may not be so bad, as we’ll see below. What about running shoes? The vast majority of runners, especially road runners, run in raised heel shoes.
Let’s take a look at the effects of raising the heel of a shoe.
Normally, our posture is pretty good. By “normal” I mean barefoot. Our backs are straight. Look at the skeleton on the left. This is normal.
As soon as we place something under our heel to raise it above the forefoot, our pelvis rotates forward. If we allow our torso to move with our pelvis, we would end up in a position like the middle skeleton.
Since this position feels weird and makes us unbalanced, we compensate by arching our back. The resulting position looks like the skeleton on the right.
This effect can be aesthetically-pleasing for females.
It creates a few visual tricks:
- First, the heel makes the legs appear longer.
- Second, the tilted pelvis raises the butt and causes it to stick out. Think J Lo.
- Third, the arched back compensation causes the chest to stick out. Think Pamela Anderson.
This visual effect can turn this:
If you’re going out for a night on the town, I won’t argue this is a bad thing.
HOWEVER, if you take this same effect and transpose it on a runner, you end up with a disaster in the making. Raised heel running shoes produce the exact same effect as Jessica Rabbit’s stilettos. The changed posture causes excessive stress on the knees, hips, and back. What’s the solution?
Simple. Get zero-drop shoes. Even reducing the heel-to-toe differential will produce positive results. This is a major reason why zero drop shoes are becoming so incredibly popular- they alleviate pain caused by bad posture. This is also the reason several major manufacturers, like Saucony, are reducing the rise in the heels of their running shoes.
The raised heel can also promote heel striking. If you attempt to run with a midfoot strike, your foot (inside the shoe) will be parallel with the ground as it is about to make contact. Since there’s more material under the heel of the shoe, it will contact the ground before the forefoot.
This same effect can cause problems for non-runners, too. Back in the day I worked as a cashier in a grocery store. We’d be on our feet for eight hour shifts. Every single one of the long-term cashiers had significant foot, knee, hip, or back pain. Many used some sort of drug therapy to alleviate the pain. Some underwent radical surgeries. The solutions rarely if ever worked. What could have fixed the problem? Switching to a flat-soled shoe.
Interestingly, one of my former colleagues figured this out. She even told others, but her attempts at education fell on deaf ears. People wanted to believe MORE shoe was the solution, not less.
What are your thoughts? Have you made the switch to a zero or near-zero drop shoe? What affect has the switch had on your injuries and pain?