The New York Times talks Maximal Shoes – or maybe maximizing yourself

I really like house projects. I know, I’m likely i the minority here, but it gives me a way to be involved in the place I live, and make stuff, and well, I find that pretty cool. To be successful at this, you’ve got to have fancy tools like a chop saw, joiner, planer, but more importantly know how to actually use them!

So when it comes to footwear, I tell my athletes that footwear is but a tool for the job. Full disclosure, my lab consults for many different footwear companies, and these findings have helped shape a number of products on the wall at your local running speciality store. I’ve seen objective data on how different footwear influences running gait and the individual runner. Not just a slow motion video of your foot pronating, but really dorky stuff like force vectors and the like. All of this data we collect has shown me a few things:

1. Shoes do make a difference.

2. There is no single shoe optimal for all runners, or even a single shoe that is optimized for a single runner across multiple speeds. Again you are looking for the “right tool for the job”

3. Its been really interesting to see what is “marketed” vs. what really “works” in each shoe.

Finding an optimal match of footwear for you is currently best done in a lab where we can measure data points to help runners find the best tool for their needs. As we learn more about what shoes REALLY do, hopefully the REAL message and technology will get out to your running retailer to help you match what is right for you (and the simple slow motion barefoot running assessment isn’t even close to the right way to match a shoe to your gait, as the research shows there is zero correlation to foot pronation and matching footwear).

However, let’s break this co-dependent relationship on shoes. In the excellent New York Times article on the upswing trend of maximal shoes, I closed with a statement saying that runners should spend less time shoe shopping and more time improving themselves. Gathering clinical, biomechanics, and training data with many thousands of runners over my career, has led me to the conclusion that the best thing you can do is to put a better “you” into a pair of shoes. If you’d like a little a help here, I suggest this video I made with Running Times a few years ago. While its called “Are you ready for minimal?” it really applies to all runners, and the goal is simple: the foot is the most important thing. Period. If you bring better foot control to the table, you aren’t relying on the shoe.

And if you’d like to know more on how footwear applies to running, I’ve got a whole chapter dedicated to footwear in Anatomy for Runners (with over 80 references!) and also highly suggest Pete Larson’s book Tread Lightly.

Here’s a recipe for success: Put the best foot you can into a shoe that lets your foot do its job. Don’t be afraid to try out a bunch of different shoes to see what works best for you, but don’t skimp on your body. You want it to perform? learn how to use it, and give it some attention.

My buddy’s joiner and planar allowed me to fabricate a beautiful african mahogany door to a cabinet I once built. But its the knowledge of how to USE those tools that allowed me to produce a beautiful piece (and avoid loosing a finger in the process!)


4 thoughts on “The New York Times talks Maximal Shoes – or maybe maximizing yourself

  1. Rip

    Well said. The video you linked was also very helpful and would be helpful for ALL athletes, regardless of interest in minimalism, etc. I condone it! (not that anyone would care… but I do!)

  2. jwilterdink

    Thanks for your insights Jay. I have been running for a number of years now and have consistently found that appropriate shoes are important but are only a supplement to balanced strength training for endurance athletes. I recently posted about Running Apps and if you have time would enjoy hearing what else you know about for running training. (

  3. Evan

    Dear Jay,

    Thanks so much for this resource. In the book you mention foot friendly dress shoes. I was wondering if you could provide any good recommendations?

    Thanks again!


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