What Really Goes On In A Running Store: The Myth Of Gait Analysis

Opening definitive statement: Any gait analysis that doesn’t involve a treadmill and a high speed camera is nonsense and even then there’s no useful running shoe information gathered.

This video, so shockingly lamely produced, is actually the best informational video on running shoes I’ve found in my years of searching.

It’s short, it’s clear, it’s unequivocal.

And if it were widely seen I could stop being confronted with the same moronic expectations every day at work.

I serpticiously put a poster up in the store that contains a bunch of this information to try and preempt the tedium and nonsense but, naturally, posters just become part of the scenery.

Now of course I worry about confirmation bias so I’ve been digging back in lately, trying to find out what the other side says and I’ve found… nothing. There is no other side. There’s nothing I can find defending heel drop shoes, orthodics, stability shoes and pronation control, etc. It’s just all grandfathered into the industry and the cultural knowledge.

I used to keep my copy of Brian Metlzer’s Kicksology at work with a highlighted passage about a running shoe study. This study took two groups, one assessed and assigned footwear using conventional gait analysis while another group was assigned at random… And there was no difference in injury rates. So if you go to a running store and they have you walk around barefoot and they nod knowingly – they’re still as good as you guessing at random.

Yet, I deal with people every week who want that bit of smoke and mirrors. It pervades the industry not because it gains any useful information but because it builds trust. It creates the illusion of expertise and it reinforces the customer’s vision of their own specialness. Just like everywhere else in society a wildly above average number of people are convinced they aren’t average. They believe that if the situation was simple they wouldn’t be confused; if this didn’t require expertise there wouldn’t be so many experts; so many options; so much.

But the truth is that’s not expertise, it’s just marketing. It’s all the same capitalism where what we’re selling is feeling good. We’re selling the act of purchasing and all the noise and ritual is just to enhance that so you’ll do it again. And the incentive in the industry is to keep you buying and buying again sooner.

The exponential increase of capitalism means an industry that sold 3 billion pairs of shoes 5 years ago needs to sell 6 billion this year to stay afloat.

Because the truth is a holistic approach to fitness will get you what you’re really after but it’s not super profitable to any one industry.

There’s a study referenced a few issues back in Runner’s World where pronators and neutrals were assessed for power output and the stability shoe group was in fact putting out less power – then they gave them some exercises for arch strength and got that power balance corrected.

So even if you believe that you need a stability shoe the right thing to do is still not to buy a stability shoe or an insole, it’s strength train and get your arches back.

Everyone else, every manufacturer of shoes and orthopedics and physio who convinces you your feet are just broken and you’re weak and need something more just wants your money even if they don’t know it. Even if they are well-intentioned salespeople trained by well-intentioned salespeople.

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