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Is cushion necessary in a minimalist shoe?

Yesterday I received a question on twitter – @runnerdoctor question: assuming a good forefoot strike achieved, is padding still necessary in the shoe?

This is a difficult question for me to answer. I could go on and on regarding this subject, but here is a quick answer on how I view cushion or padding.

First, and foremost, your foot needs to be able to feel the ground. If the shoe is too thick or provides stability then proprioception is hindered and your simply just striking with a loose foot against the shoe. This also explains what happens when you place an orthotic into a shoe. While it is theorized that the device is controlling motion or stabilizing the foot joints, in actuality all that is happening is the joints are not being controlled by the foot’s musculature and a collapse just occurs against the hard uncomfortable plastic.

When looking at forefoot padding or cushion, I would judge the amount necessary by how far you are running. For me, the majority of my runs that are under 10 miles are done in FiveFingers. If I am doing a tempo run that is shorter 3-4 miles, I also wear this same type of shoe. For a longer tempo run I may a use a shoe with some more cushion such as the Skechers GObionic.

For longer runs (greater then 10 miles) I typically wear a shoe with some cushion in the forefoot. This may be the Skechers GObionic or GOrun 2, New Balance Minimus, or even a Newton shoe. The Newtons I usually reserve for a run when my feet and legs are tired.

When racing padding always helps by allowing you to cheat or go all out without worrying about what’s below your foot. Not as necessary in a 5k but can hello more with a half or full marathon.

What’s the purpose of the padding? It just lessens the effect of the pounding on the forefoot and can reduce some soreness. What it shouldn’t do is control motion or stabilize the foot.

Hope this helps!

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