Bridge Soles are Here!

After years of testing and fine tuning, our first P.R. Gear product, Bridge Soles, are here! The whole fam got in on the action of checking them out and unpacking them a bit.

Much of what P.R. Gear is and will be is an extension of the foot health and running technique betterment missions of Altra. Stepping away from Altra was incredibly difficult in many ways, but there was also so much I wanted to give to the world that just wasn’t going to happen with how big Altra had become. P.R. Gear gives me a chance to bring simple solutions for foot health, running improvement, and outdoor adventure to market while being able to focus more on the education, rather than just the products.

For example, our goal with Bridge Soles is that the education in the we provide along with them both in the box and on the website makes them obsolete! Hence the ‘Bridge’ name…they’re meant to offload the foot and lower leg while people do the necessary strengthening/realignment necessary so the Bridge Soles won’t be regularly needed. Meanwhile, keep them in the closet for when things get overloaded.

Bridge Soles are designed primarily for the following issues:

  • Neuromas and other forefoot conditions
  • Plantar Fascia & other heel issues
  • Offloading the Achilles & posterior chain
  • Adapting or transitioning to more natural footwear, or even just adapting to less cushioning (good for joints)

We’re excited to offer a super lightweight solution for offloading the foot and lower leg, that doesn’t weaken those areas like traditional insoles.

Bridge Soles are now available on the PR Gear website for $14.99 or 2 for $25.99 with the discount codes on the website.

Golden Harper & Born to Run 2: New Running Form & Natural Footwear Training Tools Coming Soon

With the recent release of Born to Run 2 and the mentions of some of my story in the book, I thought it would be a good time to update people on a couple of things I’m working on:

While I can’t reveal much at this point, I’ve got a couple of new training tools coming out in the next couple of months that I’m very excited about offering to the world!

First off is the FloatRun Harness:

After studying and constantly teaching running technique for 20+ years now, I’ve come to the conclusion that teaching isn’t enough. Efficient, low impact running form needs to “hard wired” in via muscle memory…i.e. practiced the right way constantly for 6 weeks or so until it becomes hard wired in. This takes me back to Dr. Tom Miller (Author of Programmed to Run—highly recommended) teaching me good running form at age 8 and giving me a modified rubber band to keep my elbows back/arms in the right place/posture where it should be, etc. The FloatRun Harness is my updated take on this contraption, and I firmly believe it is the quickest and most effective way to permanently learn fun, efficient, soft running technique! The FloatRun Harness will be available for under $10 sometime early summer. Fill out my contact form to get a discount and be notified when they come available.

Next are Bridge Soles, which in addition to being a great tool for many common foot problems like Forefoot/Neuroma pain, Plantar Fasciosis, and Achilles issues—are also amazing for being the most effective tool to transition from traditional shoes to more natural shoes.

My research when I was developing Altra led us to understand that most people transitioned easily from traditional shoes with raised heels to Zero Drop shoes IF they maintained a similar level of cushion and support that they were used to (There were and are still a small percentage of people that don’t transition well for various reasons). The problem with this is that many people end up changing both their platform (amount of drop/toe box shape, etc.) AND going with less cushioning and support than they are used to.

Contrary to popular belief, lower leg soreness is rarely caused by less drop or heel lift alone (we all experience negative 50+ mm drop regularly when walking up hills, etc.), but is more affected by the total amount of support underfoot and the body bracing for impact (something called “landing response” This is the reason some struggle with transitioning to running in more natural footwear at first, but have no problem walking around in them. This is also why track distance runners still get sore calves and feet when wearing spikes for the first time in a season, despite most distance track spikes traditionally featuring a similar amount of heel elevation as traditional running shoes.

The BridgeSoles have a deep heel cup, super soft longitudinal arch, and full metatarsal pad to allow the foot and lower leg to RELAX upon landing and pull pressure off the calves, achilles, and foot musculature. They weigh just over 1/2 and ounce, and 3/4 length, designed to go underneath your shoes existing insoles. They are to be used for a few weeks to a few months, until your body has fully adapted to more natural footwear—and then slowly phased out and kept in storage until needed for a foot or lower leg issue, etc.

Why spend a ton of money to buy a 4-8mm drop “transition shoe” when you can get a pair of removable insoles that is more effective at getting the job done?

Bridge Soles will be available for under $20 and will be available in the next couple of months are available now. Fill out my contact form to get a discount and be notified when they come available.

How Foot-shaped Shoes Should Fit & Feel

I get a lot of questions about how foot-shaped shoes should fit and feel, and it’s totally understandable. Since 98% of shoes are not actually shaped like healthy human feet, it stands to reason that the rules for fitting would be a bit different for shoes that are.
Of course, much of this will also apply to traditional shoes as well.

The first thing that you want to do when you put your shoes on is kick your heel to the back and check your length. Stand with your knees bent, and you should have a full thumbnail width, or about 2/3 of an inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Those with extra long toes can go a bit closer, while those with extra short toes should have even more room. Fitting this way will ensure the ball of the foot, flex zone, and arch are all in the right place.

As you lace your shoes up, keep in mind your activity and terrain. For example, I lace looser for long climbs, and more snug for technical downhill. A general rule is you want to keep your shoes as loose as makes sense, since tight laces reduce blood flow and foot function, and can even lead to injuries.
For typical use, kick your heels back and get the laces finger tight over the forefoot and midfoot—it should be loose enough that you can slide a finger underneath through these areas. At the top of the shoe, pull the laces to be comfortably snug, making sure not to be too tight. Those with wider feet should custom lace to skip laces around where the foot is wide, like in this picture. The same idea can be applied to other parts of the shoe, such as over the top of the instep, where a lot of women feel their shoe binds.

Slide On/Off Lacing trick
For tame runs, walking, and casual use, use this trick to be able to slide your shoes on and off without having to tie and untie your laces.  Once you’ve put your foot in your shoe (unlaced), pull your heel back out almost all the way so it is barely resting in the shoe. Now tie the laces snug and slide your foot back in to the shoe.  The shoe will stay securely on your foot, but slide on and off with ease.

The most important thing is how your shoes feel. Once you’ve got them fit and laced up, they should feel similar to what you are used to at all the hold points from the ball to the heel. However, your toes should feel lost in space. We like to say, “If they don’t feel too big in your toes…they’re too small!” We know it will likely feel uncomfortably loose at first and might even drive you crazy. However, if you take between a day and a week to get used to the newfound room, blisters and black toe nails should be a thing of the past, and you’ll be adapted for a new level of comfort and performance.

Why You Should Ditch Your Supportive Insoles or Orthotics and How to do it!

I often get asked “what do you think about orthotics?” My response is that I believe everyone should own a pair of insoles or orthotics, because life happens. Just about everyone has moments where their feet are over-stressed or hurt. Most people will strain an arch, step off a curb wrong, or in some way irritate their feet at some point over the course of a year. An insole is a great way to temporarily pull pressure off your feet while allowing them to heel. I believe in most cases, a soft 3/4 length insole with a met pad is the best way to do this.
With that said, I believe the goal should be to use them as little as necessary—limiting use to only these situations. For example, if you break your arm, you get a cast, but once things heel you remove the cast and your muscles are atrophied from not being used. While you wouldn’t immediately go back to lifting the same amount you did before the cast, you also wouldn’t leave the cast on for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, this is exactly what many people do to their feet with the “foot casts” of supportive shoes, insoles, and orthotics. The problem of course is that they become completely dependent on these things, very unlike most humans who have existed throughout the ages with no need for “support” whatsoever.

While there are a very small percentage of people who will need to wear an insole due to something like a genetic malady or misaligned bone structure, nearly all people should be able to function the majority of the time without the need of extra support like orthotics or so called “stability” shoes.

Those who strengthen their feet and are no longer dependent on supportive insoles will experience numerous benefits, since the foundation of their body will now be strong. Some of the benefits are:

  • Less likely to be injured
  • Their arch will be able to provide its own ‘arch support’
  • Lighter weight footwear due to not having to use a heavy insole or supportive shoes
  • Ability to wear faster, lighter, more flexible shoes comfortably
  • Ability to go longer without feet fatigue
  • Ability to run faster due to stronger feet and lighter footwear

How?Support vs Strengthen Graphic
The goal is to slowly get the foot stronger and more functional while decreasing the amount of support used. This is accomplished most easily be removing the insoles from your shoes. Simply remove the supportive insoles or orthotics from your shoes until your feet start to fatigue or ache a little bit. At this point, put the insoles back in. Repeat daily, and watch as you are slowly able to go longer and longer each day without the extra support. Depending on the condition of their feet, some people may make it 5 hours without having to use the supports, while others may only make it 5 minutes.

Runners should start taking the supportive insoles out of their shoes for shorter or easier runs and slowly work up the distance they can comfortably go without them until they eventually don’t need the extra support any more. This may take anywhere from a month to twelve months.

Additionally, the following exercises may help—taking caution to start with a small amount and not to over-stress the feet.

Exercise 1: Balance on one foot. This can be done in public setting like waiting in line to pay for your groceries, but also as a standalone exercise at home. At home, try picking one foot off the ground while closing your eyes. The goal should be to eventually get to where you can do 90 seconds per foot with the eyes closed.

Exercise 2: Toe Towel Pull. This is a great one to do while watching TV or reading a book. Simply put a towel down in front of your foot and pull the towel in with your toes. When done, do the same with the other foot and repeat as necessary.

Exercise 3: Small Amounts of Barefoot Running. Since it is a dynamic, natural motion exercise, barefoot running is the most effective way to strengthen weakened feet and arches. However, it can be easy to over-stress the feet. Start with running 30 seconds barefoot on grass, smooth sidewalk, or a treadmill. Repeat every time you exercise, adding 30 seconds once or twice a week. Maximum results will occur when truly barefoot on grass, but using socks and other surfaces may be necessary depending on the situation. The goal should be to eventually be comfortable running barefoot for 20 minutes a couple of times a week, as those who can do so will rarely need use of any type of “support” for their feet.

Exercise 4: Barefoot jump rope or hops. Since this is a bit more of an explosive exercise, make sure you are warmed up and start slow. Start with 30 seconds and add 30 seconds every few days.

Keep in mind that most traditional running shoes have elevated heels and tapered toe boxes that create a need for more support, and that shoes with foot-shaped toe boxes and level, balanced cushioning (no drop from heel to forefoot) will make things much easier. When the foot is in its natural position, it has an incredible capacity to support itself and function dynamically.  For example, most people that can’t function well without their supportive shoes and inserts can “magically” walk barefoot on the grass or at the beach just fine. What is happening? Because 99% of all shoes have elevated heels and tapered toe boxes, when these people wear shoes, their feet are deformed out of their natural barefoot position. When the heel is elevated even just half an inch and when the big toe is bent in just a quarter of an inch, the gaps between the bones that stabilize the arch open up and destabilize the arch, causing collapse and a need for “support.”  So while some arch support may be necessary in nearly all traditional shoes, your arch will do quite well supporting itself in any shoe that is shaped like a healthy foot and that doesn’t have a raised heel, especially once those arch muscles have been strengthened a bit.

It’s also worth mentioning that a majority of world-class distance runners and other athletes have flat feet or low arches. However, they have strong foot muscles. In most all cases, flat feet or low arches are not a bad thing by themselves. It turns out foot strength is far more important than arch height when it comes to foot health. No one should wear supportive shoes or insoles simply because of the type of arch they naturally have.

In summary, keep a pair of insoles like BridgeSoles for when you over-stress your foot or something goes wrong. Strengthen your feet so you don’t need to use them very often. Be faster, stronger, and more injury free as a result. Good luck!

Check out my other article on “Should I still wear my supportive insoles when switching to more natural footwear?Support vs Strengthen Graphic

Should I still wear orthotics or insoles when switching to natural footwear?

People often ask if they should still wear their supportive insoles or orthotics when switching to more natural footwear that allows the foot to support itself. The answer is yes…at first. One of the reasons I created BridgeSoles was for this very purpose of safely transitioning from traditional shoes to more natural footwear. I believe that everyone should own a pair of insoles or custom orthotics, with the goal being to keep them in the closet as much as possible. With that said, life happens, and they should be used strategically, like you would use a cast temporarily when breaking a bone. If you tweak something and need to take pressure off the area, pop your insoles or orthtotics in for a few days, and then once things are feeling well enough again, put them back in the closet.

The reality is that even though more natural shoes with truly foot-shaped toe boxes and without raised heels allow the foot to support itself, years of wearing traditional shoes and/or supportive insoles have weakened the foot and more or less made it forget how to do so.

For this reason, it is recommended to only change one variable at a time. By this I mean that if you want to change to more natural shoes, you should probably keep other variables, like wearing an insole, the same. The flip side would be true as well. If you wanted to stop using supportive insoles, then it might be wise to not change your shoes at the same time. With that said, starting the process of phasing out insoles or orthotics can begin almost immediately and is easily done.

The long-term goal is to be able to strengthen the feet to the point they are no longer reliant on the so called “support.” Think of supportive shoes, insoles, or orthotics as a band-aid that temporarily protects an area. Meanwhile, keeping the foot in its natural position and doing foot strengthening is like physical therapy that is a long-term solution, allowing the body to move and act the way it is meant to. Strong, dynamic feet say “I am the support, I don’t want or need the support!” In fact, many people with decently strong feet hate the feeling of any so-called “arch support” in their shoes. Remember, just like pretty shoes make ugly feet, supportive insoles make weak feet!

Custom Orthotics and Foot

Remember, just like pretty shoes make ugly feet, supportive insoles make weak feet!

For more info on how to do strengthen your feet, read my article on reducing your dependence on supportive insoles or orthotics.

Article summing up why flat feet are not necessarily bad here and here.

Children’s Footwear: Launching Site for Adult Foot Ills

A maze of mythologies has surrounded the foot and footwear of infants and children for generations. As a result, by the time the average shoe-wearing child has reached the tender age of seven or eight, his or her feet clearly reveal a visible loss of anatomical and
functional normality. The medical practitioners are quick to attribute this to the wearing of “improper” or “ill-fitting” or out-grown shoes—not realizing that there is no other kind because all (99 percent) of juvenile foot-wear, regardless of price or brand, is
improper and ill-fitting.
It has been generally accepted by parents and medical practitioners alike that “proper footwear” was widely available for children, and if shoe-related foot disorders developed it was due to “ill-fitted” or “outgrown” shoes. There was little or no questioning the inherent design and construction faults of the shoes
themselves by medical practitioners or others. Children’s footwear was clothed in a holy shroud. Nobody saw the devils lurking inside.

Nothing Has Changed
Children’s footwear today is made, fitted and sold by the same naïve rules as a half-century and more ago. And the medical practitioners, continue to prescribe or recommend children’s footwear by the same seriously flawed rules of the past. The consequences? No shoe-wearing American or European adult owns a normal or unspoiled foot anatomically or functionally. By “normal” or “natural” is meant in comparison to the pristine feet among the estimated one billion people of the world that go through life unshod. Almost all of these physically deprived feet of adult Americans and Europeans begin in childhood with the wearing of faultily designed and constructed
footwear, starting in infancy. And all of this has occurred under the presumed “health guardianship” of the foot-related medical specialists.

The Myth of Support
The growing foot needs “support.” This popular myth not only persists, but also has led to an array of abuses by the doctors and shoe people alike. First, a question: Precisely where, how and why does a growing foot need support or reinforcement? One long-
common answer is that in shoe-wearing societies we walk on non-resilient floors and pavements, hence the growing foot needs to be protected by a buffer zone device such as a built-in arch support in the shoe or a steel shank or separate orthotic. This has no  validity whatsoever. From infancy on, most of the hundreds of millions of shoeless people of the world habitually stand and walk…mostly on unyielding ground surfaces. Most shoeless children are raised in such environments…where the streets are either cobble-stoned or paved or with hard-packed turf. Those uncovered, “unsupported” feet grow with strong, normal arches.

Heels and Toes
For centuries, right to the present day, one of the most foot-negative features on juvenile shoes has been the use of raised heels. Relative to body height, a one inch heel worn
by a child of seven is the equivalent of a two-inch heel worn by an adult. So almost all children above age seven are wearing “high” heels the equivalent of two inches in
height—and neither the shoe industry nor the doctors has any idea of this absurdity occurring before their eyes. A raised heel of any height under the foot of a growing child
automatically destabilizes the foot and the whole postural column. Such a foot is thus predestined to grow with anatomical and functional faults—much the same as a young tree planted with its trunk on a slant. The heels usually start with “first walker” shoes (10th to 12th month) and have a 3/8th-inch lift called a “spring heel” which is supposed to add forward “spring” to the step and aid in the walking. But the spring heel actually unbalances the body column and disrupts the natural balance and forward movement of the infant.
An elevated heel of any height on a child’s shoe shortens the growing Achilles tendon—the beginning of a permanent tendon shortening that begins in infancy and continues through a lifetime for all shoe-wearing people. Further, the elevated heel shortens the plantar fascia (arch) by contracting the foot and shortening the distance between
heel and ball. An elevated heel on the footwear of small, growing children is both
absurd and cruel. Among young children there is no demand or clamor for heeled shoes. The heels are imposed on the children by the shoe manufacturers, taken for granted by the parents, and accepted without question by doctors.
No footwear for children (or adults*)…should be made with an elevated heel. Exceptions might be made for girls shoes beginning about age ten if desired for peer fashion reasons. This allowance would be made on the grounds of right of choice—though not the rightness of choice.

Anti-Foot Lasts / Loss of Toe Function
Almost all Lasts for children’s footwear, including sneakers, are “crooked” in contrast to the straight-axis alignment of the foot, heel-to-toes. This has long been one of the chief causes of anatomical and functional foot deformity that begins in childhood and  continues throughout all the adult years. Why this obstinate continuation of crooked-last shoes that are so obviously anti-foot health? Tradition again. Shoes have been made on crooked lasts for centuries, so the manufacturers, along with the shoe retailers, continue to remain blissfully ignorant of this visible conflict between foot and shoe and hence resist or refuse change.
In any shoe-wearing society, by age eight or nine, the toes of most children have lost up to 50 percent of their natural prehensile and functional capacity. They are no longer strong, finger-like, ground-grasping organs but weak appenditures at the end of the foot. By early dulthood the toes will reveal visible symptoms such as tapered shape, bunions, crooked or hammer toes, nail disorders, etc.

Infants Shoes
In all shoe-wearing societies…the anatomical deformity and functional delinquency of the foot begins at about the sixth or seventh month when the infant, still in its crib, is fitted to pre-walker shoes, a laced bootie. Despite the fast-growing foot, the crib shoes
are worn until about the 11th or 12 th month when the infant begins to walk and is fitted to its first shoes—again a laced bootie, but a firmer sole. It’s as though the parents, shoe people and doctors can’t wait to begin the primitive process of foot-wrapping, little different than the old Chinese footbinding customs that began when the girl was about
age six.
The infant, displaying more common sense than the parents, shoe people or doctors, struggles to pull off the alien wrappings on its feet. These are primitive conditions and attitudes when the foot is at its most vulnerable stage. But under prevailing practices, the infant foot is usually pre-doomed to a high-risk life ahead.
Surveys reveal that, for parents, the single most memorable event for them during an infant’s life span is its first steps. With those first steps the infant is now ready for prime time. So onto its feet go its “first-stepper” shoes. And suddenly, the infant, having successfully launched its walking career barefoot, finds itself struggling to maintain balance and locomote with stiff, constrictive, alien objects on its feet. It labors to take “normal” steps with shoes on—a physical and biomechanical impossibility…First, the shoe’s soles…are one-fourth to three-eighths of an inch thick. They automatically prevent 80 to 90 percent of the child’s normal flex angle. The steps are pancake-like, seriously hampering the gait mechanics. The thick soles commonly used on infant shoes and sneakers are an absurdity. Infants never wear out their shoe soles.

What these experiences clearly demonstrate is that if the foot is permitted to reach adulthood unspoiled by shoes, the foot will be a quite different object anatomically and functionally than the foot shod from infancy into adulthood. Hence the obvious conclusion: In any shoe-wearing society there is no such thing as a natural or “normal” foot anatomically and functionally.
The shoe-wearing foot has been anatomically conditioned from infancy to acquire the faulty shape to adapt to the faulty shoe. This contradicts the rule: you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. But you can. You simply shave the corners or edges of the square peg until they are rounded, and the once-square peg fits neatly into the round hole. This is precisely what happens to all shoe-wearing feet. So we arrive at the deceptive illusion that all once-square-pegged feet are “normal” because they fit into the round hole.

Where To From Here?
An excerpt from a U.S. Department’s public statement: “Our studies show that the most criticized factor contributing to the controversy about orthopedic footwear is the lack of knowledge or training of most medical practitioners…The attending physician or medical
specialist is not normally schooled about footwear.” It has long been assumed that children’s footwear is generally healthful because it allows for normal foot development by avoiding the “sins” of adult footwear (high heels, pointed toes, vanity, too-
small sizes, fad fashions, etc.). This is seriously naïve. Over the past 50-100 years virtually every branch or specialty of medicine has made substantial contributions to disease prevention and health improvements in its field. Only podiatry has failed on this score. While podiatry has made appreciable advances in the treatment of foot disorders, it has added almost nothing to the science of prevention.

Here are two proposed steps for launching the initiative:

1) A mass professional policy urging parents to keep their infants shoeless through the first three years. This would give the foot a healthy head start.

2) Urge all parents to adopt the shoeless-at-home-rule for their children through age 12, and suggesting that the parents apply the same rule or habit to themselves.

Once introduced, the shoeless-at-home habit is eagerly adopted by juveniles because of the “freedom” feeling. Having acquired the shoeless habit up through age 12, most children will continue with it well into the late teens and often beyond. The obvious consequence would be a marked improvement in child foot health and continuing
into the adult range over the subsequent years. The APMA should assume leadership here by taking an official stance and using the muscle of its public relations sector. Podiatrists would supplement this by similar advice and guidance to office patients. So, while teens would likely continue to go shoeless at home, they would adopt and wear the peer fashion footwear outside. But by then healthy child foot development will have gotten off to a vigorous head start—something that rarely occurs in any shoe-wearing society.
Podiatry must now begin exchanging the old platitudes concerning the foot/shoe linkage in child foot development for the new realities. It must confront the simple premise that children’s feet fare better without rather than with shoes.

Dr. Rossi, a shoe industry consultant, has written eight books and over 400 articles, including extensive additions on leather and footwear in Encyclopaedia Brittanica.


Classic American Foot Binding

The Myths & Problems with Traditional Running Shoes & Potential Scientific Based Solutions

Myth 1: Modern running shoes reduce injuries.

Reality: Despite all the advances in technology, running injuries have not gone down since modern running shoes were inventedsome have even gone up[1]. This is likely because several prevailing myths that are not based in science have prevailed in running shoe design & marketing. No traditional running shoe has ever been proven to reduce injury.[2]

Why: See below.

Myth 2: Cushioning technologies will protect the joints. Therefore the marketing has always been along the lines of “The Gel in these Asics will save your knees” or “run however you want, the cushioning technology will protect you.”

Reality: Peer reviewed research has shown that not only does cushioning not protect joints[3], but when more cushioning is used, especially in the heel of the shoe, it actually magnifies forces higher up the kinetic chain (knees, hips, back, etc.)[4]. In fact, shoes with elevated, cushy heels “provoke a sharp reduction in (the body’s natural) shock-moderating behaviour, thus increasing impact force.”[5] The more the cushioning, the harder the body instinctively hits the ground.[6]

Solution: Foot-shaped, Zero Drop shoes allow the body to land in a way it can naturally absorb impact, bending at the knee and splaying the toes to allow the body to naturally and near perfectly absorb impact. There is enough cushioning to protect the feet, but no excessive, raised heel cushioning that causes the body to land unnaturally and impact harder.

Note: Cushioning has been shown to work at the point of impact, i.e. shoe cushioning will protect the foot to some degree, but not the knees. This is similar to how boxing gloves protect the hands, but shoulders are the #1 injury among boxers.

Myth 3: Traditional running shoes will help people run better

Reality: The heavy, raised heel in running shoes has changed the way most people run significantly for the worse, likely leading to injury rates referenced above. 50 years ago, before modern running shoes with heavy, elevated heels were invented, it was rare to see any runner over-striding or landing harshly on their heel out in front of their body. Now, around 80% of runners over-stride, which Harvard research in 20092 linked to an average of 3 to 5 times more initial impact (Vertical Loading Rate) in runners, despite wearing the best selling, well cushioned running shoes on the market.

Solution: Zero Drop Shoes remove the offending heavy, elevated heel and are level and weight balanced from heel to forefoot, and therefore allow the body to land naturally without over-striding. A 2016 study by the University of Northern Iowa[7] shows this to be the case compared to some of the best selling running shoes on the market.

Myth 4: “Good”, supportive, modern shoes will prevent or cure foot problems

Reality: In America, 73% of the population reports foot pain annually![8] In populations where people go barefoot or wear primitive footwear that don’t have elevated heels or closed toes, the incidence of foot problems is 3%. These populations experience none of our common chronic foot conditions such as bunions, neuromas, plantar fasciosis, hammer toes, etc.[9][10] Nearly all foot pain/problems are caused by shoes manipulating our feet out of their natural position by raising the heels, pushing up under the arch, and crowding the toes together.

Solution: Foot-shaped, Zero Drop shoes allow the foot to assume its natural, barefoot position while providing some cushioning to protect the foot from hard, flat, modern surfaces.

Myth 5: Over-pronation causes injuries & “stability” running shoes will fix it

Reality: Over 200 studies have been done on “over-pronation” of the foot & injuries—no significant link has ever been found.[11] Ironically, shoes built to reduce over-pronation have been shown to not work. Lab tests show that stability shoes make it appear that the pronation is not happening, but the foot continues to pronate the exact same amount inside the shoe! In fact, some studies show that “over-pronators” are less injured than other runners. The Running Injury Clinic in Calgary has followed about 4,000 runners for 6 years and found out that only about 15% of runners benefited from wearing a stability shoe, and many of those don’t over-pronate[12]. The majority of the population is least injured & best served by wearing a shoe that “lets the body do what it naturally wants to do.”

Solution: Foot-shaped, Zero Drop shoes keep the foot in its natural, barefoot position and allow the foot and body to “do what it wants to do” and naturally absorb impact and stabilize the foot. This is important because researchers suggest the two most important factors in a shoe reducing injury are that it a) is the most comfortable and b) allows a person to go through their “preferred movement pattern”[13] (i.e. run like they would barefoot on a natural surface)

Myth 6: Running injuries come from running on hard surfaces

Reality: Most running injuries are likely due to muscle imbalances created by repetitive motion & running unnaturally (often caused by elevated heel shoes). Running injuries have a much higher incidence on soft surfaces like tracks & astroturf than they do on natural surfaces that make every step different. These natural surfaces could be rock hard, but they encourage more natural impact & muscle distribution because every step is different and they force better, natural running technique.

Solution: 1/3 of running mileage on trails or other uneven surfaces such as cobblestones or grass has been observed to have a significantly protective effect.[14] Foot-shaped, Zero Drop trail running shoes have proven to be very adept on uneven surfaces, being the #1 choice of shoe among serious runners at the “Super bowl of trail and ultra running.”[15]

Based on their belief on much of the above research, the American College of Sports Medicine essentially describes foot-shaped, Zero Drop shoes in their recommendations for “Selecting Running Shoes”[16]: “Characteristics of a good, safe running shoe include:

• Shoes with no drop…are the best choice.

• Neutral: The shoe does not contain…extra components (that) interfere with normal foot motion.

• Light in weight

• Be sure the shoe has a wide toe box. You should be able to wiggle your toes easily.

Additionally, they describe nearly all traditional running shoes in their “Shoe qualities to avoid”:

• Shoes that have a high heel cushion and low forefoot cushion (high heel to toe drop)

• Narrow toe boxes do not permit the normal splay, or spread of the foot bones during running. This will prevent your feet from being able to safely distribute the forces during the loading phase of gait.

Research References:

[1] Van Mechelen W. Running injuries. A review of the epidemiological literature. Sports Med. 1992; 14(5):320-35. Nigg B, et al Br J Sports Med 2015;49:1290-1294.

[2] Richards, et al, University of Newcastle, 2009.

[3] Lieberman, et al, 2009.

[4] Kerrigan, et al, 2009.

[5] Robbins and Hanna, 1987; Robbins et al., 1989; Robbins and Gouw, 1990

[6] Nigg, et al, Calgary, 1997

[7] Ficklin, et. al, University of Norther Iowa, 2016

[8] 2010 APMA Annual Report

[9] Schulman, 1949, Jamaica, NY

[10] I.B. Shine, 1962, St. Helena

[11]www.BartoldBiomechanica.com , 2015

[12] Ferber R, et al Running Injury Clinic, Calgary: Green Runner Study

[13] Nigg B, Baltich J, Hoerzer S, et al Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: ‘preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’ Br J Sports Med 2015;49:1290-1294.

[14] Harper, 2005, Brigham Young University

[15] 2017 Observed Footwear Choices, Western States Endurance Run 100 Mile Race. iRunFar: Your Trail Running & Ultramarathon Resource

[16] https://www.acsm.org/docs/brochu…


How to Read Your Running Shoe Wear Pattern: Learn About Your Stride, Best Shoe Type, & More

Your shoes can tell you a lot…including whether you are landing harshly, and which type of shoe might be best for you.

Most people don’t know it, but the wear pattern on a well-used pair of running shoes can tell a pretty good story.   That story may include the fact that you are over-striding and landing with more impact than you need to.  It may also tell you that you should work on strengthening your feet, or that you have a leg length discrepancy.   Often, runners go get a gait analysis at their local running store, not knowing that bringing a used pair of shoes can likely tell the staff a whole lot more about what shoes will be best for you than watching or filming you run ever could.  In fact, gait analysis for shoe selection can be misleading.   About 50% of all running shoes sold are so-called “Stability” shoes.  However, only about 1 in 9 running shoe wear patterns show that a runner *might* benefit from the so-called “stability.”

The first step to reading the wear pattern on your shoes is to get a well-used pair of running shoes that has only been used for running.  If they have been used for too much walking, this will throw off the wear pattern and make it hard to truly get a good read on what’s going on with your run.

Now that you’ve got a suitable pair of shoes to read, it’s time to flip them over and look at the wear pattern on the rubber outsole.  In my opinion, the most important thing you should look at is the heel area of each shoe.  If your shoes show significant wear at the outside back corner, you are likely over-striding and landing with a lot more impact.  A study by Harvard scientists found that over-striding, or excessive heel-striking produced three to five times more impact than runners who landed closer to underneath their bodies and didn’t land with a harsh heel-strike.  This type of landing also causes excess torque in the joints, which many scientists believe is actually even more of a cause of running injuries.

If your shoes show this wear on the very back outside heel, I recommend a few simple tips such as not letting the elbows swing forward past the hips and taking quicker steps.   Most runners have never had a running lesson, so finding a coach or running store nearby that teaches a class could be very beneficial.  Interestingly enough, virtually no one was over-striding before we had running shoes with cushioned, elevated heels. Putting a pair of shoes with no elevated heel in your shoe rotation can help make it easy to stop over-striding and develop a more natural, low impact stride.  Additionally, using a pair of shoes without an elevated heel can also help fix any pronation-supination irregularities as well. For more on improving your form and optimizing your landing, check out the tips here.

Nearly all runners land on the outside part of their feet. Contrary to popular belief, landing on the outside does NOT mean you are over-pronating.  It just means that you are normal.  Shoes are wider than human heels, and hips are wider than where your shoes hit the ground.  These two things make it so virtually every runner lands on the outside of their shoes.



Now that we know that landing on the outside is normal, the next thing to look at is which part of the forefoot of the shoe has the most wear.  Your foot absorbs impact by rolling inward and then pushing off your strongest toe, which is your big toe.  So, an ideal wear pattern will show the most wear on the
forefoot in the middle to slightly inside part of the shoe.



The running shoe world calls this “neutral.”  If this is you, you will likely naturally avoid “stability” shoes and shoes with any kind of dark material under the arch or shoes with any extra arch support or “control” features.

If wear is more towards the outside, you aren’t pronating or absorbing shock very well, and you are a “supinator”, which is very rare…so much so that major running shoe companies don’t make supination specific shoes. Most supinators tend to like more cushioned shoes, as their feet don’t absorb impact very well.



If your wear is on the inside part of the forefoot, then you are likely an “over-pronator” meaning that your feet collapse more than usual, causing the leg to do the same and likely causing excess joint torque.  For some, this is a bone deformity, collapsed arch, or genetic inheritance.  For others, their feet are simply weak from a lifetime of wearing so-called “supportive” shoes and/or orthotics that move the foot out of its natural position and weaken the foot muscles.  Most people that over-pronate will benefit from a foot strengthening regimen that could include standing on one foot, pulling a towel in with the toes, and/or running or walking short distances barefoot on soft surfaces.  A device called “Correct Toes” is a great benefit for strengthening the foot and helping to re-align it to its natural position, and I highly recommend them for nearly every runner. Along with this, wearing a shoe with a foot-shaped toe box—like pictured above—allows the big toe to straighten out and provide the right amount of natural stability for the foot.

If your wear pattern shows that you are an over-pronator, you may be among the 1 in 9 people who may benefit from wearing a stability shoe until your feet re-align and get stronger.  As long as your wear pattern continues to show wear on the inside of the forefoot, it may be best to stick with a stability shoe.  However, it is important to note that outside of a weak link to shin splints, excess pronation has never been significantly tied to running injuries.  Additionally, multiple studies have shown over-pronators to be slightly less injured while wearing neutral shoes. Traditional stability shoes with dual density or medial (arch) posting have also never been shown to actually reduce pronation, but rather only make it appear so.  Only varus wedges (a wedge that is higher on the inside of the foot than the outside) have been shown to truly reduce excess pronation. The question is whether we should be even be trying to reduce excessive pronation.

Also keep in mind that 83% of runners are less injured in a shoe that doesn’t mess with what the foot and body naturally wants to do—in essence, the shoe that feels the most comfortable, barefoot, relaxed, and free.  Interestingly, about 1 in 7 runners is less likely to be injured while wearing a stability shoe.  However, only about half of those runners had excessive pronation—the other half had neutral biomechanics. The take home message here is to go try a bunch of different types of shoes and only judge them by how they feel when you are actually running in them. How they feel standing and walking are mostly irrelevant.

One more thing to look for is irregularities between the left and right shoe.  This can give you clues in to any imbalances you might have or injuries that occur due to this or favoring one leg over another.

One way to partially or even completely nullify unwanted stride patterns on a shoe is to run on uneven ground, such as trails, grass, or even cobblestones. If you run off road enough, the irregular surface can improve your technique and help correct any imbalances you might have.

Reading your shoe is one of the most effective ways to know what is going on with your body, and is in many ways far more reliable than photos, video, or other ways of seeing the way you run.  Most importantly, a reminder that according to studies done on running shoes and injuries, runners will be least injured in the shoe that they feel the most comfortable, relaxed, and free in *while running*—regardless of category. So go in to your local running store and try on a half dozen pairs of different types of shoes and buy the one that feels the most comfortable and like it’s not there—even if you have a neutral wear pattern and that shoe happens to be a stability shoe!

Related: How to strengthen your feet so that you’re not reliant on orthotics
Dial in your running form to help your shoes wear better and last longer
Bridge Soles for pulling pressure off the feet while strengthening and realigning

Running Shoe Recommendations are NOT Based on Science

Below are excerpts from one of my favorite articles of all time, by Steve Magness of Science of Running. He details how running shoe recommendations such as neutral, stability, etc. are not based on science. He also discusses how our understanding of things like cushioning and pronation work are also distorted by propaganda from shoe companies. When I first read this while managing my running store, this rocked my world, and I decided to use the information to help my customers, rather than be afraid of it because it changed our business model and approach. 

Our bodies are smarter and more adaptive than we give them credit for. This is a must read for every runner in my opinion!

Why Running Shoes Do Not Work—Looking at Pronation, Cushioning, Motion Control, and Barefoot Running

By Steve Magness, ScienceOfRunning.com

The running shoe model needs to be fixed. Pronation, Motion Control, Cushioning, and Stability shoes? Get rid of them all.

It’s not just barefoot running and minimalism versus running shoes, the either/or situation many portray it to be. It’s much deeper than that. It’s not even that running shoe companies are evil and out to make a profit. Shoe companies may be accomplishing the goals they set out for, but maybe the goals their aiming for are not what need to be done. The paradigm that running shoes are built upon is the problem.
Running shoes are built upon two central premises, impact forces and pronation. Their goals are simple, limit impact forces and prevent overprontation. This has led to a classification system based on cushioning, stability, and motion control. The problem is that this system may not have any ground to stand on. Have we been focused on the wrong things for 40+years?
I’ll start with the customary statistic of 33-56% of runners get injured every year (Bruggerman, 2007). That is kind of mind blowing when you think about it. Since there are a ton of injuries going on, let’s look at what shoes are supposed to do.

As said earlier, shoes are built upon the premise that impact forces and pronation are what cause injuries. Pronation, in particular has been constructed as the bane of all runners. We have become inundated with limiting pronation via motion control shoes. The central idea behind pronation is that overpronating causes rotation of the lower leg (i.e. ankle,tibia, knee), putting stress on the joints and therefore leading to injuries. Running shoes are therefore designed to limit this pronation. Essentially, running shoes are developed and designed to put the body in “proper” alignment. But do we really need proper alignment?
This paradigm on pronation relies on two main things: (1) Over-pronation causes injuries and (2) Running shoes can alter pronation.
Looking at the first premise, we can see several studies that do not show a link between pronation and injuries. In an epidemiological study by Wen et al. (1997), he found that lower extremitly alignment was not a major risk factor for marathon runners. In another study by Wen et al. (1998), this time a prospective study, he concluded that “Minor variations in lower extremity alignment do not appear conclusively to be major risk factors for overuse injuries in runners.” Other studies have reached similar conclusions. One by Nigg et al. (2000) showed that foot and ankle movement did not predict injuries in a large group of runners.
If foot movement/pronation does not predict injuries or is not a risk factor for injuries, then one has to question whether the concept is sound or working…
Looking at the second premise, do shoes even modify pronation? Motion control shoes are designed to decrease pronation through a variety of mechanisms. Most choose to insert a medial post or a similar device. In a study by Stacoff (2001), they tested several motion control shoe devices and found that they did not alter pronation and did not change the kinematics of the Tibia or Calcaneus bones either. Similarly, another study by Butler (2007) found that motion control shoes showed no difference in peak pronation when compared to cushioning shoes. Lastly, Dixon (2007) found similar results showing that motion control shoes did not reduce peak eversion (pronation) and didn’t change the concentration of pressure.
This is sort of a double whammy on motion control shoes. If excessive pronation does not cause injuries to the degree that everyone thinks, and if motion control shoes don’t even alter pronation, what’s the point of a motion control shoe?

Impact forces are the other major scoundrel of running injuries. The thinking goes like this, the greater the impact force on the lower the leg, the greater stress the foot/leg takes, which could potentially lead to injuries. To combat this fear, running shoes, particular cushioning ones, are to the rescue. Let’s take a look.
The first question is, do cushioning shoes do their job?
Wegener (2008) tested out the Asics Gel-Nimbus and the Brooks Glycerin to see if they reduced plantar pressure. They found that the shoes did their job!….But where it reduced pressure varied highly—Meaning that pressure reduction varied between forefoot/rearfoot/etc. This led to the interesting conclusion that there should be a shift in prescribing shoes to one based on where plantar pressure is highest for that individual person. It should be noted that this reduction in pressure was based on a comparison to another shoe, a tennis shoe. I’m not sure that this is a good control. Basically, this study tells us that cushioned running shoes decrease peak pressure when compared to a Tennis shoe.
In a review on the subject, Nigg (2000) found that both external and internal impact force peaks were not or barely influenced by the running shoes midsole. This means that the cushioning type does not change impact forces much, if at all. But how can this be? I mean it’s common sense if you jumped on concrete vs. jumped on a shoe foam like surface, the shoe surface is softer right? We’ll come back to this question in a minute.

Underestimating Our Body: Impact forces as feedback:
Back to the question I asked earlier: How can impact forces not change based on shoe sole softness and why isn’t running on hard surfaces lead to more injuries?
The problem is, once again, we underestimate the human body! It’s an amazing thing, and we never give it the credit it deserves. The body adapts to the surface that it’s going to strike, if you give it a chance. The body adapts to both shoe and surface adjusting impact forces via changes joint stiffness, the way the foot strikes, and a concept called muscle tuning.
An example of this can be seen with barefoot running, the diminished proprioception (sensory feedback) of wearing a shoe negates the cushioning of the shoe.  Studies using minimal shoes/barefoot have shown that the body seems to adapt the impact forces/landing based on feedback and feedforward data. When running or landing from a jump, the body takes in all the sensory info, plus prior experiences, and adjusts to protect itself/land optimally.  As mentioned above, it does this through a variety of mechanisms. Thus, you stick some cushioned running shoe on the bottom of your foot and the body goes “Oh, we’re okay, we don’t need to worry about impact as much, we’ve got this soft piece…on our foot.
One concept that needs to be further discussed is muscle tuning. It’s a concept recently proposed by Nigg et al. in 2000. He sees impact force as a signal or a source of feedback, as I stated earlier. The body then uses this information and adjusts accordingly to minimize soft tissue vibration and/or bone vibration. His contention is that impact force is not the problem, but rather the signal. Muscle tuning is essentially controlling these vibrations via a variety of methods. One potential mechanism is pre-activation. Pre-activation is activation of the muscles prior to impact. In this case it serves as a way of muscle tuning to prepare for impact and in addition can alter muscle stiffness, which is another way to prepare for impact. Pre-activation has been established with multiple EMG studies.
Shoes not only impact this, but surface type does too. As mentioned previously, the change in running surface did not impact injury rates. Why? Probably because the body adapts to running surface. In an interesting study measuring muscle activity, O’Flynn(1996) found that pre-activation changed based on surface. To prepare for impact, and presumably to minimize muscle/bone vibration, when running on concrete pre-activation was very high, when running on a soft track, not so much.

What all of this means is that the body adapts via sensory input. It has several different adaptation methods. A shoe influences how it adapts. The shoe is not doing anything to alter cushioning, it is simply altering how the body responds to impact. It’s a significant mindset jump if you think about it. Here’s the summary:
The type of shoe and material of the shoe changes impact NOT because of alignment of the lower leg or because of changes in cushioning. Instead it changes impact characteristics because it alters the sensory feedback
In conclusion on the cushioning concept. Well, what are we trying to cushion? Heel impact forces have not been shown to relate to injuries, in fact in one study low impact runners had a 30% injury rate compared to a 20% injury rate in high impact runners. Shoe midsoles do not change, or marginally change impact forces anyway. So, not only may cushioning not be the answer, the shoes might not even be doing their job. But what about those shoe cushioning studies showing improved cushioning with their new midsole?! Well, the majority of that testing is done by using a machine to simulate the impact forces that you experience during running. That means, yes it may cushion an impact more, but it doesn’t take into account the role of the body adjusting impact based on feedback.
The reason cushioning doesn’t work? Because the body adapts based on feedback and feedforward information. These results prompted one notable researcher(Nigg,2000) to call for the reconsideration of the cushioning paradigm for running shoes.

Barefoot running?
Quickly, this topic could not be complete without a brief mention of barefoot running. An interesting thing to note is that the initial peak impact force is absent in barefoot running when compared to running with shoes. What this means is that, the impact forces look like (A) for (raised heel) shoes and (B) for barefoot. That initial little blip in A is the initial impact force. There is a hypothesis that this initial impact force is related to injuries.

Impact Transient Heel vs Forefoot

A=Heel Strike/Heeled Shoes B=Natural Landing


A recent study by Squadrone et al.(2009) compared running shoes, barefoot running, and running in Vibram Five Fingers. They demonstrated reduced impact forces, shorter ground contact and stride length, but increased stride frequency while running barefoot (and in Vibrams) as compared to running with shoes. This is not unexpected, but shows that running shoes do in fact alter our normal strides. An interesting point is the reduction in stride length but increase in stride frequency. Shoes tend to promote this longer stride at a consequence of ground contact times and frequency. This happens because of changes in feedback signaling, increased likelihood to land on heel stretched out, increased weight, all of which lead to longer times on the ground. It’s interesting to note that elite runners all have short ground contacts and high frequencies (as demonstrated by the often quoted Daniels study of 180 strides per minute).
Tying this to the discussion above on the body controlling things based on sensory information, when running barefoot, there is a higher degree of stiffness in the lower leg. Increased stiffness can result in an increased SSC (stretch shortening cycle) response, resulting in greater force on the subsequent push off (2001). Dalleau et al. demonstrated that pre-activation causing increased stiffness improved Running Economy. In his study, the energy cost of running was related to the stiffness of the lower leg (1998)

Another recent study found that knee flexion torque, knee varus torque, and hip internal rotation torque all were significantly greater in shoes compared to barefoot. What does all of this mean? Potentially, this means more stress on the joints in this area. Jay Dicharry put it best when he said:
“The soft materials in modern running shoes allow a contact style that you would not use barefoot. The foot no longer gets the proprioceptive cues that it gets unshod. The foot naturally accommodates to surfaces rapidly, but a midsole can impair the foot’s ability to react to the ground. This can mute or alter feedback the body gets while running. These factors allow a runner to adopt a gait that causes the elevated forces observed above.”

The one thing that non-barefoot/heel strike proponents use to dismiss midfoot striking/barefoot running is the Achilles tendon. They say, correctly, that the load on the Achilles is higher in midfoot striking runners. The Achilles is meant to take a large load. The problem is we’ve weakened the Achilles through years of wearing shoes with their elevated heels. Essentially, we’ve created the Achilles problem with the shoes meant to prevent it. The Achilles is designed to operate in a rubber band like fashion. . During impact such as the braking or contact phase of running, the achilles tendon stores energy and then subsequent releases that energy via recoil during the take off phase of running. The Achilles, can store and return approximately 35% of its kinetic energy (Ker, 1987). Without this elastic storage and return, the oxygen uptake required would be 30-40% higher! So, in terms of performance why are we trying to minimize the tendonous contribution? It’s like giving away free energy.

Running shoes do not utilize the elastic storage and return as well as barefoot or minimal shoes. More energy is lost with shoes than with barefoot running (Alexander and Bennett, 1989). In addition, in some models of shoes, the arch is not allowed to function like a spring. The arch of the foot can store around 17% of kinetic energy (Ker, 1987). Given these results, its not surprising that running barefoot when compared to running with shoes is more efficient. Several studies have shown a decreased VO2 at the same pace with barefoot running, even when weight is taken into account. This should be no surprise as I mentioned above, without elastic recoil VO2 requirement would be 30-40% higher. Running in a minimal shoe allows for better utilization of this system.

So, the take away message is that shoes change natural mechanics to one that creates mechanical changes that are not optimal for running fast (decreased stride frequency, increased ground contact, decreased stiffness of the system, decreased elastic contribution, and on and on).

Tying it together with elites:
Looking at elite athletes, when racing and training, they generally have higher turnover, minimal ground contact time, and a foot strike that is under their center of gravity. Since the majority of elites exhibit these same characteristics while racing, it makes sense that this is the optimal way to run fast. So, why are we wearing footwear that is designed to increase ground contact, decrease turnover, and promote footstrike out in front of the center of gravity? I have no idea.  (Golden Note: Sounds like an Altra ad to me!)

In conclusion, I’m not some fanatic saying everyone ditch shoes now. Chances are you’ve been running in shoes for 20+ years. Your bodies done some adapting during that time. You’ve got to gradually change if you want to undue some of the changes.

The purpose of this article wasn’t to talk about the benefits of barefoot running. Instead it was to point out the problems with Running Shoe classification. It’s based on a cushioning/pronation paradigm that simply is not as true as they want us to believe. That paradigm needs to be reevaluated. It’s not founded on good science but rather initial ideas that made sense with no science behind them, but upon further review may not stand up to testing. A recent study found that using the good old shoe classification system that everyone uses, had little influence on injury prevention in a large group of Army Basic Training participants (Knapik, 2009). They concluded that selecting shoes based on arch height (like all major running magazines suggest) is not necessary if injury prevention is the goal. I guess that means the systems broken…

Where do we go and how do we fix it? I have no idea. Sorry, no genius answers here. My inclination is that we aim for letting the foot function how it is meant to function, or at least come up with some shoe that may alter foot mechanics but while still allowing feedback/functionality of the body. The first step is looking at the foundation on which running shoes are built upon, the motion control, stability, and cushioning paradigm. My take is that it needs to be reevaluated. I’m going to end with something I’ve already said, but it’s an important concept to get across:

The body is more complicated and smarter than we give it credit.
The type of shoe and material of the shoe changes impact or stride characteristics NOT because of alignment of the lower leg or because of changes in cushioning. Instead it changes impact and stride characteristics because it alters the sensory feedback. The brain is a wonderful thing.’

If you found this article to be informative, I’d appreciate it If you passed it along.  The goal is to get research based data out there so people can be well informed.
-Steve Magness

Avoiding Foot Pain & Keeping Your Feet Healthy During Pregnancy

By Golden Harper & Dan Hoopes, M.D. (Originally written as a guest post for the Mumberry Pregnancy Workout Clothing Blog)

Did you know that in America, 73% of us report having foot pain or problems? Contrast this with only 3% of people in countries where they only wear sandals or don’t wear shoes at all! Unfortunately, our “fashionable” shoes are wreaking havoc on our feet, and surprise, it’s even worse for pregnant women. Pregnant women tend to complain of even more foot pain, due to the excess load their feet have to bare, the swelling that naturally occurs, and the sensitivity in the feet that comes along.

Dr. Dan Hoopes, a fellowship-trained Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon, says:

“Your feet will feel different and will not fit any shoes you have that are tight. This is because the hormones which are causing the ligaments to relax in the pelvis are also affecting the foot architecture. Your foot will need more space, especially in the area of the toes. It might go back after the baby is born, but it might be your new normal. Look for shoes that either have no toe box (no shoes, flip-flops, slippers) or a “foot-shaped” toe box (see my recommended shoe list here). For more information on these changes in your foot see this article from my professional society for Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons.”

Keep in mind that many foot problems during pregnancy—which stem from weak foot muscles, extra sensitivity in the feet, pointy toe boxes, and elevated heels— may be exacerbated due to extra weight. Here are a few tips to help your feet fare better through your pregnancy:

  • Start a foot strengthening routine early in your pregnancy so your feet can handle the excess load they will be called to bare later. Practice standing on one foot with your eyes closed, pull a towel in with your toes while you’re watching TV or reading a book, etc.
  • Try buying your socks a size larger to make your feet more comfortable when they swell. Also note that many women’s feet grow as well, so you may need to buy bigger shoes also.
  • Use thicker socks to help out with the extra sensitivity on the bottom of your feet.
  • Many women comment that normally wear very lightweight or low profile shoes note that they experience less discomfort in a more cushioned athletic shoe than they would normally wear due to the extra weight & sensitivity that they experience.
  • Avoid wearing shoes with heels of any size, as they put extra pressure on your forefoot and leave you more susceptible to rolling an ankle.
  • Avoid wearing shoes with tapered toe boxes. Hint: Put your foot down next to your shoe—if your shoe is more pointy than your foot then don’t wear it. Consider buying shoes that are more shaped like feet as these will let your feet take on their natural form and help to accommodate swelling, excess weight, and sensitivity better.
  • Stay active and exercise to increase blood flow. Take breaks from sitting more often.
  • Since your growing uterus puts pressure on your veins, and slows blood to the heart, causing swelling—try lying on your back with your feet elevated for 10-15 minutes.

    Altra X-Ray Image

    X-Ray of a Foot-shaped Foot-shaped athletic shoe vs. a traditional shoe w/ a tapered to box

Dr. Hoopes adds that to keep in mind that swelling is sometimes part of the deal with pregnancy and that you can lessen it further with these tips:

  • “Lie on your left side since that will get the baby off your vena cava. That’s that largest vein in your body pulling blood from all parts of your body (and reducing swelling) and it is on the RIGHT side of your spine, just behind the uterus.
  • Putting your feet up. I always tell my patients that gravity is your enemy and your friend. Enemy when your feet are down and your friend when they’re up!
  • Use knee or thigh-high compression stockings if you aren’t able to put your feet up.

*If you have excessive or rapidly increasing foot/ankle swelling, see your doctor ASAP. It could be a sign of preeclampsia, which is a very serious pregnancy condition. One recent study suggests that taking Vitamin D could reduce the risk of preeclampsia. Vitamin D supplements have almost no risk, are pennies a day, and have many possible upsides. More information is available here.

Although many women have major problems with their feet during and after pregnancy, nearly all of them are preventable. With the proper care & preparation, most women can go through pregnancy without any significant foot pain or problems. My wife is nearly 7 months pregnant and she has been free of foot pain thus far. She strengthened her feet prior to pregnancy, and doesn’t wear shoes that have tapered toe boxes or heels of any height. She has tried to stay active with running, Yoga, Tennis, core workouts, and more. As she has gained weight, she has started to wear more cushioned running & athletic shoes, and she is wearing looser socks than she wore in the past.

Show your feet a little love and treat them right, and they’ll treat you right, even during a long, hard pregnancy!

Golden Harper graduated with a degree in Exercise Science with an emphasis in Fitness & Wellness. He did his collegiate studies on running technique & running injuries & has studied feet & foot problems extensively. He grew up working in his family’s running store and holds a world-best for a 12-year old in the marathon at 2:45:34.

Dan Hoopes MD is a fellowship-trained Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon who has done extensive research and a special interest in runners and how they can get (and stay) healthy. See his bio here.

Open Toe Lacing System

Here’s the lacing technique that we started doing at our running store to help fix our customers foot problems. This in combination with Hawk selling shoes “too big” to people with foot problems was the first way we proved out a need for shoes to actually be shaped like feet.

It works well for nearly every foot type—those with wider feet especially love it.  Back when I managed the running store, about three fourths of customers preferred & used this lacing.   This unique lacing system allows the forefoot complete room to expand and breathe while securing the heel and preventing “lace creep”.

Simply skip straight under from the first set of lace holes to the second without crossing, and then skip straight over to the third set without crossing.  Lace as usual up to the second to last set of holes.  At this point, create a pulley system by threading straight in to the last hole without crossing and simply dropping the lace from the opposite side in to the hole you have created.   Relax your forefoot and Run Natural!


The Original Altra Instinct with progressive wide lacing

-It is recommended to have the laces over the top of the arch/instep be loose enough to be able to slide a finger under them after the shoe is tied.
-The lacing should fit snug at the heel, relaxed over the arch, and wide open at the forefoot.
-It may feel “too loose” at first—this is good—the foot will learn to spread out and relax within a few minutes to a few days.
-Try lacing only one shoe this way & going for a run.  You may notice after a few miles that the entire leg with this lacing system is more relaxed than the other leg.  If the foot muscles can relax, there is a chain reaction to the rest of the leg.


The Best Running Shoe Lacing Technique ever?


Do people that don’t wear shoes get bunions? Not really.

It’s pretty simple. Researchers who have studied populations of people that don’t wear shoes have found next to no bunions in these people! Various studies have shown 0% of non-shoe wearing populations have bunions (or hallux valgus), while 2 other studies have shown as much as 1.9% (although it should be noted that the people in this study occasionally wore shoes.)

In fact, only 3% of people in non-shoe wearing populations have any kind of foot malady. Contrast that with the 73% of Americans who take the time to report foot pain! (2010 APMA Survey). In my opinion as someone who has studied this stuff my whole life, our modern footwear is almost the sole source of our foot problems.

Are bunions causes by over-pronation? Not really. Unless of course that is caused by a shoe with a tapered toe box (bunion creator) or an elevated heel which causes the foot to roll in in the first place. Supposed “over-pronation” has never been significantly linked to any injury.

Are bunions caused by tight fitting shoes? Absolutely! They’re also caused by supposed well fitting shoes that aren’t shaped like feet (i.e. 99% of all shoes).Most people have never even thought about it, but almost all shoes are shaped more like pizza slices or torpedoes than they are healthy human feet!


Classic American Foot Binding

Nike Pointy
Are bunions caused by high heels? Yes. But they’re also caused by low heels. A heel of any height causes your big toe to move inward, which pushes the bunion out.

Do your feet and bunions a favor—get a pair of shoes that are actually shaped like your feet and that have no heel elevation.  Altra, Lems Shoes, & VivoBarefoot all make great shoes for this!

If your big toe joint is still somewhat flexible, consider Correct Toes to help re-shape your feet over time. Use them while active, like when walking or driving, for best effect. www.correcttoes.com

For more detailed information on the hereditary bunion myth, read this from Dr. Ray McClanahan: https://www.correcttoes.com/foot-help/hereditary-bunion-myth-part-i-dr-ray-mcclanahan-dpm/


http://refs.ahcuah.com/papers/shulman.htm (Shows 0% Hallux Valgus or Bunions in Chinese and Indian Populations that don’t wear shoes)


Runner’s World Article with Dr. Ray McClanahan: https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a25345875/bunion-pain-relief/

A few citations:

Hoffman, P. 1905. Conclusions drawn from a comparative study of the feet of barefooted and shoe-wearing peoples. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 3, 105-136.

Lam Sim-Fook and Hodgson, A. R. 1958.  A comparison of foot forms among the non-shoe and shoe-wearing Chinese Population. 7. Bone 7t Surg., 40A, 1058.

Shine, I. B. 1965. Incidence of hallux valgus in a partially shoe-wearing community. British Medical Journal, 1, 1648-1650.

Kato, T. and Watanabe, S. 1981. The etiology of hallux valgus in Japan. Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research, 157, 78-81.



2014: My Journey Back to Running After a Life Altering Accident

Those who know me know that I have spent a lifetime either running, studying running, talking running or working on something to do with running.  I was running races at age two and finished my first marathon in 3:08:05 as a ten year old.   Aside from a two year break from competition to serve a mission for my church, I’ve been running competitively since before I have memories.  That all changed in January of 2012 when I had a terrible snowboarding accident.  I hit a pipe while doing a flip going 30 miles per hour—this threw me upside down and I landed on my shoulder and my helmet with a crack.  As I hit, I was folded in half like an accordion with my backside coming around to the ground and the weight of my board and my feet hitting above my head.  If you know me, you know I am anything but flexible and this was a position I can’t get within three feet of in normal circumstances.  Imagine lying on your back and pulling your straightened legs towards your head and then having someone jump on them to get them to hit the ground behind your head.  Needless to say, it was painful and I knew right away it was serious.

I ended up stretching/straining/tearing everything between my hamstrings and my glutes.  I also suffered a badly separated shoulder which is still obviously visible to this day.  The pain was excruciating and I couldn’t really walk at first and I certainly could not run.  To not be able to run fast for the first time in my life was life altering to say the least.  I went to physical therapy and tried to do what I could to recover and within a few months I was able to hike, and my girlfriend at the time—now my wife—kicked my butt up many a mountain that spring.  By the summer, I was able to run slowly, very slowly, so I decided that since I could only go really slow, I might as well go long.  We tackled quite a few mountains in the Wasatch that year, with my glutes & hamstrings screaming the whole time. Every time I tried to push, my legs held me back.

After one year, it was apparent that my injuries were serious and competition wasn’t going to happen any time soon, if ever again.  There didn’t seem to be a whole lot more the physical & massage therapists could do.  I spent 2013 running with girlfriend.  I had a blast running somewhere not at the front of the pack, mixing it up with people I never would have met had I been running fast.  I gained even more respect and appreciation for those not taking home winners trophies.  I remembered what I had always known, running is wonderful and fun, even when you’re not taking home hardware.  I ran to the top of a lot of mountains in 2013, becoming the first person to run to the top of all of the 11,000 foot peaks in the Wasatch Range.  And I remembered that running just for the sake of running is a beautiful blessing.

Running on top of Mt. Raymond

Running on top of Mt. Raymond

2014 started off much like 2013, and I spent the first few months running with my now wife and enjoying it.  But the itch to be able to really push again kept nagging at me.  Although my legs were damaged, my lungs and the rest of me wanted to be pushed.  There is something to be said for pushing yourself, whether you are fast or not.  Somewhere along the way, I pushed my legs close to the breaking point.  Only now something different happened…they didn’t ache and get worse.  In fact, they seemed to get a bit better.  Soon I figured out that the only way to get my legs better was to push them hard, but not over the edge.  Each time I did this, I gained a little more range of motion and a little more speed than I previously had.

Brit and I on July 4th

Brit and I on July 4th

So my wife eventually convinced me to race a 5k, not knowing what she was getting in to.  At this point, I could run fast for only a couple of miles before my legs killed me, so a 5k was really my only option anyway.  The 5k is a blast and is under appreciated in the distance running world.  I raced 5k’s most of the year because that’s all my legs would let me do.  I ran to the top of a few mountains along the way, but going long and hard/fast wasn’t an option. By the end of the year I was able to race a 10k without much in the way of complications.    My legs still aren’t 100% and neither am I, but I had a great year pushing myself.  I was lucky enough to win nine races, three of which my wife won overall as well, which will be something I will always cherish.  Although I am not at the national-class level I once was, and may never be again, it feels great to be out there pushing myself within the limits that my body currently allows.  I am grateful for that, and still feel that running just for the sake of running is still a beautiful blessing.

2014 Race Roundup

In my first year attempting to race since my big accident, I managed to pull off 9 Overall Wins, 4 Second Place Overall finishes, 4 Age Division Wins, and had some great experiences on road & trail.  Met a ton of wonderful people along the way and had the pleasure of my wife and I both winning 3 races together!

4/5/14 Run 4 Kids – 2nd Overall

4/26/14 Cookie Chaser 5k Herriman 17:18 – 2nd Overall

5/10/14 Vigor Big Cottonwood 5k 15:49 – OVERALL WIN

5/17/14 RWE Relay – Team was 3rd Overall – Had a 4:46 mile

5/21/14 Wasatch Trail Corner Canyon Short Course 3.5 mile Race: OVERALL WIN

6/7/14 Vigor Solitude Trail Series 3 Mile – OVERALL WIN

6/21/14 Butterfield Brawl Trail 10k – OVERALL WIN

6/28/14 Run Through the Lavender 5k – 2nd Overall

7/4/11 Riverton Country Mile 5k – 2nd Overall

7/11/14 Salem, MA Miles Over the Moon 23:06 – 6th Overall

8/23/14 Bryce Canyon Rim Run (Trail Race) – OVERALL WIN

9/13/14 Dirty Dash 10k – Passed over 1,000 people!

9/20/14 Grizzly Tracks 5k – OVERALL WIN 16:35

10/18/14 Runner’s World 5k Emmaus PA – 1st Division

11/1/14 Snow Canyon 5k – OVERALL WIN

11/8/14 Thanksgiving Crazy Course Race – OVERALL WIN

11/22/14 Hillcrest DECA 5k – OVERALL WIN

11/27/14 Mesa Turkey Trot 10k AZ 34:29 – 4th Overall/Division Win

12/4/14 TRE Indie 5k – 16:59




4x Age Division WINS

1 Honeymoon Cruise Ship Rock Climbing Competition Medal!

Running Tet Paul Trail in St. Lucia with one of the Pitons in the background

Running Tet Paul Trail in St. Lucia with one of the Pitons in the background

Running Philosophy: How to be a Better, Healthier Runner

Healthy Running Philosophy: How to be a Better Runner & Run Injury Free

One of the most common questions runners ask me is how they can improve and at the same time stay healthy.  Although there is no proven way to do this, I feel that I’ve learned a lot through the years that can be passed on.  I spent my years in college studying running injuries & running technique, and I also worked in a running store for nearly 2 decades where learning to help people not hurt was the name of the game.  Through my studies and hands on experience, I’ve come to believe there are four major causes of running injuries:

  1. Repetitive Stress & Muscle Imbalances (Mostly caused by man-made surfaces)
  2. Poor Running Technique
  3. Poor Foot & Body Function & Strength
  4. Over-training

As a result, there are possible solutions for each one:

  1. Repetitive Stress & Muscle Imbalances
    World renowned Exercise Scientist & 1984 Olympic Trials Marathon Champion Pete Pfitzinger wrote “Most running injuries occur because of the repetitive nature of the running stride…You can address…by correcting muscle imbalances…and by adjusting your running surface…”(1) Our bodies were not created to run repetitively on a uniform surface such as a road, track, or treadmill.  Therefore, it is imperative that runners search out and run on variable, uneven surfaces such as trails, cobblestones, and grass as much as possible. This allows more intrinsic and stabilizing muscles to get involved, thereby balancing the muscle structure. A soft surface like a track will not reduce injury.  In fact, track running actually encourages more injury because it is so extremely consistent.  The more different each step is and the more the whole body gets involved, the more effective the surface is at preventing injury.   My studies in college showed that trail runners were far less injured than road runners, but that most runners could reduce injury by running one-third of their mileage on variable terrain.  The book Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry is the comprehensive source on why muscle balance matters and how to avoid injury.
  2. Poor Running Technique
    Since most runners have never been trained on HOW to run efficiently with low impact, most of them over-stride and run with inefficient, high impact running technique.  Unfortunately, most shoes literally teach bad form as well, because most running shoes have elevated heels that are twice as heavy and twice as thick as the forefoot of the shoe.  In any other sport, there is focus on performing the tasks of the sport correctly to reduce injury and improve performance—running should be no different.  Become a student of good running form to learn how to protect your body.  I highly recommend filming yourself as most people don’t run the way they think they run! Additionally, getting a pair of Zero Drop shoes—shoes without an elevated heel—will make it much easier to run with good technique.  Any heel elevation, even 4mm, will cause a weight and height imbalance that will encourage an early, unnatural foot-strike. Although there is no ideal running form, there are a few things that nearly all elite runners and non-injured runners have in common:

    1) Proud, Forward Momentum Posture: Hips & Chest are pushed forward without bending at the waist.
    2) Compact Arms: Elbows shouldn’t swing forward past the hips unless sprinting—this will keep the body in proper position and prevent over-striding.
    3) Soft Landing Under a Bent Knee: Don’t think about foot-strike, as it will take care of itself if the other points are done correctly. Most people will naturally land somewhere between a slight heel strike and the middle of the foot.  Excessive heel striking or forefoot/toe striking is discouraged.
    4) High Cadence: Nearly all elites have been observed to have around 180+ steps per minute.  For most people, ultimately shooting for at least 170 steps per minute will drastically improve form, improve foot-strike, and reduce impact.
    See www.AltraRunBetter.com for more detail.  I also recommend reading Programmed to Run by Dr. Tom Miller.

  3. Poor Foot Strength & Function
    To improve performance and avoid injury from the ground up, both the foot and the core of the body need to be strong and in their natural position.  The foot is the foundation of the body and it is therefore critical that the foot be strong & be allowed to function naturally—yet most Americans have weak feet that are inhibited by shoes that move their feet out of natural position and function by raising their heels and crowding their toes with pointy toe-boxes.
    Keep your body in its natural position whenever possible. Your running shoes are important, but what you wear the rest of the day is equally important.  If your shoes aren’t the same shape as your spread out foot in a sock, get new shoes.  Shoes that will put your feet in their most natural, powerful position will not include tapered toe-boxes, elevated heels, or excessive “arch support”.

    Tapered toe-boxes don’t allow the foot & toes to naturally absorb impact, stabilize the body, and push off the ground the way they are meant to.  They also contribute to bunions, neuromas, Plantar Fasciosis, and other foot maladies.
    Elevated heels shorten the calves and Achilles tendon and make the body column compensate, causing extra pressure on the lower back, hips, & knees.  Therefore shoes should be flat, flexible, and shaped like healthy feet.  Wearing footwear like this will allow your feet to function properly and become strong and dynamic.  The stress on the feet from hard, consistent, man-mad surfaces can be reduced by having some cushioning in the shoe.
    Excessive “arch support” and/or orthotics weaken the feet and create a vicious addiction cycle until the feet are strengthened and learn how to work without them again.  Those addicted to supposed “arch support” need to strengthen their feet and slowly phase the orthotics or arch supports out over a period of a few months as their feet get stronger and become the support.

    Additionally, most Americans sit all day at work and have weak core muscles.  If you sit at work, consider using an exercise ball as a chair some of the time.  Take walks at least every hour if possible. It is also critical to strengthen core muscles through Strength Training, Yoga, Pilates, Climbing, or other Cross Training Activities.

  4. Over-training
    Combating over-training is one of the hardest things for a runner to do
    .  For most of us, it is in our nature to push it.  We get excited about a race or how our training is going and then we push it too hard.   Unfortunately, the best solution to this one seems to be to stop being a runner! In all seriousness though, just remember that training smarter is better than training harder.  It is proven that you will get improve more from running a Lactate Threshold workout at 15k to Half Marathon pace and NOT by going faster.  It is also proven that your v02Max workouts will give your body benefit at your 3k to 5k pace and you will get more benefit at that pace than by running harder.  I recommend reading “Road Racing for Serious Runners” to better understand how to get faster by training smarter and not harder.
    It is almost inevitable that a runner will get sick, experience a life event that disrupts running, or get injured in some form during training—often this will be non-running related.  For this reason, I highly recommend planning a couple weeks of down time in to each training season.  If and when you have to use this time, it doesn’t affect you as negatively because you’ve planned on it.  If you don’t have to use it, you’re just that much further ahead.

There are probably a thousand other items that could be added in, but these are some of the big ones!  At the end of the day, most runners can avoid injury by avoiding over-training, becoming a student of their running form, running on natural, variable surfaces, and by putting their body in its natural, most powerful state.

(1) Road Racing for Serious Runners, Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas, pg. 70.

I’m an inexperienced runner, what should I look for in a running shoe?

Running Shoes for Newer Runners

“What should my first pair of real running shoes be?”

During the nearly twenty years I spent working and managing a running store, I often heard the same question quite often: “What shoes should I get if I’ve never really had running shoes before?”  It was always a tough question, because  each individual is so different and has different needs when it comes to how much cushion or support they could benefit from.  With that said—with any sport, there is always a universal need to learn HOW to do the sport properly and have the right equipment that encourages proper technique.   In fact, in some sports, beginners are often given pieces of equipment that are training tools that over-emphasize proper form or expedite the learning process.

Unfortunately, the running world hasn’t seemed to have caught on to this yet.  In fact, running is probably the only sport we spend virtually no time teaching new-comers how to properly do the sport and just tell them to “go run”.  No wonder the injury rate is so high! This is equivalent to taking a kid and throwing him in the pool and just saying “go swim”, or giving a kid a basketball and saying “go shoot!”  Sure, you’ll get better over time, but it will be slow and painful, you’ll likely get injured over time, and you’ll most likely have to unlearn some bad habits as you progress.

Additionally, running is probably the only sport where our equipment typically works against us and encourages less than ideal technique.  Indeed, most running shoes encourage beginning runners—and all runners—to run WRONG! The vast majority of running shoes contain cushioning that is twice as heavy and twice as thick in the heel as it is in the front of the shoe.  This additional weight and height in the heel of the shoe causes a runner to land more out in front of their body, and more on their heels.   Simply put, most traditional running shoes encourage a runner to run with higher impact, inefficient form than they otherwise would.

If you are having a hard time believing this, simply film yourself running for 5 minutes in traditional running shoes, and then film yourself for 5 minutes running barefoot or in a shoe that is very thin or perfectly flat.  Watch the last minute of each video.  The changes in landing (foot strike), knee angle, overall posture, and stride rate (cadence) are incredible! With that said, I’m not advocating barefoot for beginners—unless they are VERY patient people and want to start barefoot—for a variety of reasons.  More on this later.

Running is also likely the only sport where our main piece of equipment puts our body in a less than ideal position for balance, stability, and power.   The ability of the foot to naturally spread out on landing, stabilize the body further by engaging the big toe, and powerfully push off from this position is a critical piece of being able to run efficiently and injury free.  Simply put, the foot should be able to spread out upon landing and therefore 1) absorb impact, 2) naturally stabilize, and 3) push off the ground efficiently.  As the foot hits the ground and spreads out into its widest position, it is naturally more powerful and more stable.  Think of the wide, low stance of a sports car or trying to do push-ups with your fingers together versus spread apart.

Unfortunately, although feet are naturally widest at the toes, most running shoes feature tapered toe boxes that are shaped more like torpedoes than they are like healthy human feet.   X-ray images show that tapered toe boxes cause significantly more bone stress in the feet, which is a precursor to stress fractures. This tapered shape inhibits the body’s ability to naturally spread out the foot to absorb impact, stabilize, and push off the ground powerfully.  To drive the point home, the majority of people buy shoes too narrow for their feet. In fact, the width of the average female shoe sold is nearly 2 sizes narrower than the average female foot. No wonder 73% of Americans report foot pain as compared to only a 3% incidence in non-shoe wearing populations! Take a look at your foot in a non-constricting sock and compare that shape to the shape of your shoe and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.  If you’ve been wearing shoes that are too narrow for many years, your feet may be starting to look more like the shoes you wear than actual feet, which is a precursor to many foot problems, and only gets worse with age.  If this is you, I recommend something called Correct Toes to help get your feet back to a naturally functioning & healthy shape.

Now ultimately, a beginning runner can also benefit from some degree of cushioning and support to protect the feet from man-made surfaces and allow them to progress faster than they would otherwise.

So ultimately, in my opinion, and the opinion of the American College of Sports Medicine, the ideal running shoe for a beginning runner would not contain the heavy, elevated heel that teaches poor, high impact technique.  The ideal running shoe for a newer runner would also not feature a traditional tapered toe box which ultimately inhibits impact absorption and is responsible for so many common foot maladies.  A great running shoe for a beginner would also have just enough cushioning to allow them to be comfortable and allow them to progress and add mileage on a variety of surfaces.   An important consideration should be made that some newer runners may have weak feet, and could benefit from using a very soft, lightweight arch support until their feet become strong enough to go without it.

For these reasons, I believe newer runners are best off in a shoe that is cushioned but Zero Drop, and shaped like a healthy human foot.  These things will allow the foot to function properly and the body to run with efficient, low impact running technique.  In short, a cushioned, Zero Drop, Foot-shaped shoe like Altra will help a beginning runner learn good habits from the start and possibly reduce many injuries instead of the status quo. As with all things, I recommend trying things out first to make sure it works for you, as each of us is an individual with unique needs.  Happy Running!

-K. Golden Harper

Golden graduated with a degree in Exercise Science and did his collegiate studies on running technique & running injuries. He grew up working in his family’s running store and holds a world-best for a 12-year old in the marathon at 2:45:34.

About Golden Harper

Golden HarperDSCF1250 (2) (Custom)

Golden started running as soon as he left crawling and has never looked back.

Between the ages of 10 and 14, Golden ran 5 marathons, debuting with a State Record 3:08 performance.  He followed that up with a 2:57 performance that was good for a National Best for age 11.  At age12, he ran the St. George Marathon in 2:45:34, setting a world best. He went on to win two Cross Country State Championships.  He beat Ryan Hall to make it to the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships & broke the previous National Record for the 5k in Cross Country that day, but was beaten by the likes of Dathan Ritzenhein, Matt Tegenkamp, Ian Dobson, Josh Rohatinsky, and Alan Webb.   His Senior year of college, Golden came close to going undefeated at collegiate distance Cross Country races.

Golden has always been an avid mountain runner, and has recorded top finishes in many mountain races in the Rockies, including winning his debut 50 mile race by nearly an hour against a competitive field of sponsored athletes.

In addition to competitive running, Golden grew up working in his family’s specialty running store, educating people about proper running technique and becoming an expert on running injuries.  His 20 years of working (& nearly 10 years of management) at a running store are a huge asset.

Golden studied Exercise Science at two Universities, where he was particularly focused on biomechanics, kinematics, and coaching.  During this time, he wrote several research articles on running-related injuries and running technique.

With the knowledge of proper biomechanics and a passion for reducing running injuries, he developed the first cushioned Zero Drop™ running shoes after appeals to major shoe companies fell on deaf ears. Golden’s running experience and commitment to helping people run better were a driving force in the creation of Altra.

  • Education

o   Graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science: Fitness & Wellness with a Business Management emphasis

o   1st Team All-Conference in Cross Country

o   Academic All-American in Cross Country

  • Work History

o   Runner’s Corner – Buyer and General Manager (1991-2011)

o   Creator and Founder of Altra (2009-Present)

  • Personal Bests

o   Mountain 50 Miler – 9:12, Alpine to Slick Rock

o   Marathon – 2:44:53, St. George Marathon (Age 13)

o   Cross Country 10k – 31:04 (At Altitude)

o   Cross Country 8k – 25:06

o   5k – 14:45

o   3200m/2 Mile – 9:09

o   1600m/Mile – 4:19

  • Major Overall Wins

o   2x Cross Country State Titles

o   PacWest Conference Cross Country Championship

o   Jupiter Peak Steeplechase

o   Alpine to Slick Rock 50 Miler

  • Family

o   Despite both coming from non-athletic backgrounds & starting to run later in life, Golden’s parents have both achieved the highest levels of running.

o   His father Hawk has finished over 70 marathons, winning several, and posting a personal best of 2:22. He also holds a state record for the Double Marathon.

o   His mother Cheryl held the State Record in the Marathon for 20 years and went to the Olympic Trials 4 times.  She also set a National Best by running a 24:39 8k.

o   Golden’s family has won nearly 20 state titles.  His three Sisters Amber, Krystal, and Summer have all won State Championships in Cross Country.  Krystal and Summer have both won National Championships for USAT&F Cross Country.