A choice based on client preferences
Even if beliefs held by clients are often based on their own experience, they are still frequently biased by commercial influences. Additionally, despite the importance of disseminating reliable information (from unbiased sources) that is also easy to understand, it is important to respect the customer’s beliefs. It is also paramount to follow any prescription that may have been issued by a healthcare professional for injury management. A runner who elects to use a new type of running footwear should ensure a gradual transition to their new shoes.
A choice based on evidence, not marketing incentives
The concepts taught to any client must be centered on science-based evidence or, if there is a lack of data, based on clinical reasoning coupled with professional experience. It is important to understand that the new technologies proposed every year by companies have no scientific basis and are designed for a simple objective: to sell products. Retailers/salespeople must critically analyze the information conveyed by companies so as to ensure that company incentives do not compromise advice provided to clients. Commercial influences and profits related to the sale of a specific type of shoe should never influence salespeople in their recommendations to clients.
A choice based on ergonomics
Comfort is the single most important factor when purchasing a pair of running shoes. Comfort should include the absence of pressure points that could cause deformation or irritation of the foot. Consider the size, width and shape of the client’s foot, especially the forefoot and toes (when standing still AND walking/running).
A choice geared toward minimalism for children
The elements that are essential in selecting a pair of shoes for children are relatively straightforward and widely accepted by most experts in this field. First, the main role of shoes is to protect the foot from cuts, puncture and infection. Second, shoes should not interfere with optimal foot development, meaning that they should be “minimalist”. Stiff and tight shoes are not recommended. Finally, the more often children are barefoot (e.g. walking around at home, playing in the backyard), the better it is. Any good shoe retailer should communicate such information to parents.
Look for shoes that are minimalist: no heel or arch support, and a sole that is flexible and ultra-thin. There is no set age when a child/teenager should start wearing maximalist running shoes (cushioned, elevated heel, relatively rigid). However, if a teenager has already grown accustomed to maximalist running shoes, there should be a gradual transition to minimalist shoes spread over a few weeks in order to allow the foot to adapt.
Minimalist choices for beginners
Beginners with no running experience are highly adaptable regarding the way that they run. For this reason, they should at least consider shoes that are more minimalist (i.e. shoes that interfere as little as possible with natural biomechanics) which will also help strengthen foot muscles. Shoes that are towards the minimalist side of the spectrum naturally help runners to run with less impact. More research is needed to determine which of minimalism or maximalism is better. However, remember that your body is well designed, and that modern cushioned shoes do not prevent injuries.
A choice not based on the arch of the foot
There is no evidence to recommend running shoes based of the type of foot arch (flat, high or “normal”). Additionally, the efficiency of pronation control systems in governing the movements of the feet and legs is debatable.
A choice not based on an individual’s weight
There is no scientific basis for justifying that relatively heavy people should wear thicker, more cushioned and more rigid shoes, or shoes elevated at the heel. Durability is an additional criterion to consider when looking to select the right type of running shoes.