While women’s participation in running and shoe sales have skyrocketed over the past 25 years, the running shoe industry as a whole hasn’t exactly kept up with the trend from a health perspective. design and performance. It may come as a surprise to know that not all brands use gender-specific lasts (the three-dimensional inner shape of the shoe on which a shoe is built) or have material specifications tailored to the unique characteristics of gait and the shape of the runners’ foot.
Generally speaking, women’s feet are narrower in the heel and wider in the forefoot than men’s feet, but they also have shorter, steeper, and wider longitudinal arches. Proportionally speaking, women also tend to have shorter forefoot bones, higher instep, lower calf muscles, and wider hips than men.
These details may result in subtly or distinctly different landing patterns and foot flexion patterns in their running gait and could partly explain why women and men tend to be injured differently, says Dr. Casey Kerrigan, a avid runner and founder of OESH Shoes for women. Mark.
While men are more likely to suffer from tendon and cartilage problems in the knee, running injuries in women tend to be linked to stress fractures and injuries related to pelvic instability, including the iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee) and Achilles tendon. tendonitis, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Additionally, women experience more than double knee osteoarthritis than men, says Kerrigan.
Dr. Kerrigan thinks all women’s shoes could be better designed to minimize risk.
Ideally, she says, a shoe designed specifically for a woman would be much wider than a men’s shoe in the forefoot and much, much narrower in the heel. She also believes that women’s shoes should be built on a completely flat platform with heavy-duty foam, but without any foot contouring or gait control devices. These types of elements tend to increase the impact on all joints of the lower extremities, especially the knees.
“I think the idea of women-specific running shoes is phenomenal,” says Dr. Kerrigan, who founded walking research labs at both Harvard University and the University of Virginia. “It’s going in the right direction, but I’d like the women’s fashion industry to follow because it’s a lifetime of what your impact is in all footwear, and that includes stance.”
Along with OESH, ASICS and Altra are among the brands that have devoted more research, design and marketing to women’s specific shoe shapes and features in recent years. Adidas and Puma are two of the companies unveiling new shoes this spring with women-specific designs.
An all-female Adidas footwear team has re-engineered, re-engineered and re-engineered its popular, maximum-cushioned Ultraboost training shoe to match the specific foot shape and gait of female runners. The women’s edition of the new Ultraboost 22 ($190) is built around an all-new last based on foot analysis data from over 1.2 million runners in North America, Asia and Europe.
The shape of the new Ultraboost 22 has a narrower heel, lower instep and an S-shaped heel geometry that works with a firm, low-profile heel counter to secure the rearfoot while allowing the tendon to expand. ‘Achilles to move freely. It also features a stretchy Primeknit upper to accommodate a wider range of interior volumes and a reinforced outsole to reduce pronation.
Meanwhile, Puma says its upcoming Run XX Nitro shoe has a progressive, women-specific design, built on a female last that has a wider heel, higher instep and steeper arch, as well than a slightly firmer version of the brand’s lightweight and responsive NITRO midsole foam.
So what about the rest of women’s shoes? If you consider all models of all brands on the shoe wall of your local running store, most women’s running shoes are still made from men’s or “unisex” lasts, which are the most often based on size and shape. men’s feet.
Although we’re all freaked out by the process of downsizing men’s shoes, there have been advancements in running shoes over other shoe categories, says Geoffrey Gray, a physical therapist who harnesses science and technology. Heeluxe footwear research in Goleta, California, a company that consults with footwear brands in the design process of running, outdoor and leisure footwear.
“I always look at it from the perspective of women buying more running shoes, why are we still developing primarily for men? It amazes me when I see this. It just doesn’t make sense to me,” Gray says. “If Levi’s can make 20 different sizes and fits of jeans for men and women, you’d think more shoe companies could do the same with shoes.”
A word to the wise, though: women’s specific lasts don’t work for all women, and following a one-size-fits-all concept isn’t the best way for a runner – male or female – to select their next pair of shoes, says Jay Dicharry, a physical therapist in Bend, Oregon, and one of the nation’s leading gait analysts.
Dicharry has subjected thousands of runners to high-tech clinical gait analysis sessions for scientific research and to advise shoemakers in the design of new shoes. He says he doesn’t consider gender when evaluating shoe fit, but instead looks at trends in data from tests of women (and men) running in shoes with a wide range of shapes and interior volumes.
“I know there’s a lot of pressure to design products specifically for women, but more importantly, we need to shift that discussion to designing products for individuals,” says Dicharry. “Just as not all men’s feet are the same, not all women’s foot shapes are the same either. If you don’t have a wider forefoot and a narrower heel, a women’s specific design won’t help.
In other words, instead of buying a shoe based on stereotypical dimensions, he says every runner needs to find a shoe that works specifically for their foot shape and gait. And while fit can be a big factor in determining which shoe styles are best for your feet, what’s scientifically more important is finding a running shoe with a rubber midsole. foam that will optimally compress and rebound in tune with your body mass, running speed, rate of strength development and titin levels (the level of protein matrix inside your muscles).
So how can you be sure to have a shoe that meets these criteria? Dicharry recommends visiting a specialty running store and taking the time to try on several pairs of shoes with one of the store’s shoe experts. Do some initial running motion tests, either on the store’s treadmill or by doing a bit of jogging in the shoes on the store floor or outside on a sidewalk, he says.
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You’ll want to find shoes that fit the size and shape of your foot without binding, pinching, or causing irritation, but you’ll also want to find a shoe with a midsole that feels semi-firm and supportive. , not too soft and not too hard. As you demo the shoe in the store, practice cutting left and right to see if it conforms to the shape of your foot or if it feels sloppy and rolls sideways as you turn.
“Fitness matters. You want a shoe to mold to the shape of your foot,” he says. “If it’s a women’s shoe, it’s perfect. If it’s a men’s shoe, that’s fine too. But don’t get locked into the idea that you need to find a specific women’s shoe, because what you really need is a shoe that matches your foot shape. Period.”