I wrote a while ago about checking my confirmation bias and I feel compelled to rehash that before I start: I put up a poster in the store which references some studies about how pronation control shoes do nothing, max cushion shoes are hurting you, the usual barefoot zealot type stuff, and I realized that’s typical confirmation bias – I found what I wanted and then stopped looking.
So I looked some more and I found hundreds of studies confirming what I think. Well, one hundred fifty eight.
But what bugs me is I couldn’t find any “other side”. Not for running shoes anyway, I got into a rabbit hole of learning about tennis shoes and they made a pretty good case for orthopedics having performance benefits. (Here’s that link. Also this guy has a video where he buys one of Serena William’s shoes on eBay and buys the over the counter public version and cuts them in half to show the difference which is such pure shoe nerd I respect him forever.)
Even one of my go to shoetubers on the topic of heel drop was like shrug emoji. All the minimalist stuff makes sense to him but he still feels like cushion and heel are somehow normal. Like, they just have to be because otherwise why would most shoes have them? But also it’s worth pointing out that he’s had a ton of all the typical running injuries and had to learn exercises to correct them, not just buy more and more ‘supportive’ shoes.
Which brings me to the majority problem; the normalcy problem. Running is the only sport where a majority of participants report being injured every year. It’s weird to deflect to the idea of normal when the norm is injured.
Like, with smoking, everyone has some example of an uncle or someone who smoked a pack a day right up to the end and it never seemed like it was doing them any harm. The thing is the vast vast vast majority of smokers do see palpable harm and premature death from smoking so we can dismiss those anecdotes and say that smoking is definitively bad.
So here we are with most runners being injured and more and more of the gen pop having foot problems and kinetic chain problems and still everyone is like I guess we just need to smoke harder? Like, running injuries and foot problems have just gotten worse and worse since Nike debuted and took over the market and everyone had to copy them or go bankrupt but barefoot running is regarded as a niche trend that passed?
The thing is, particularly when it’s anonymous, anecdotal evidence still sways me. I worry that I’m the crazy one and I’ve just opted for certainty over… I want to say confusion but if I weren’t confused I wouldn’t be writing this post.
But you get it. It simplifies things to be dogmatic; To declare everything towards the center from me is just bullshit and never have to deal with any worry.
When anecdotal evidence isn’t anonymous though holy fuck am I elitist. I’ll get people in the store with feet that are just destroyed saying insoles relieved their Trinidadian cousin’s friend’s shin splints and I… I just die a little more inside.
Not everyone of course but it still shocks and disappoints me when I tell someone I can show them the stretches they can do for free and the much cheaper roller they could buy to surely solve their problem rather than a spend-and-hope, spending-is-solving, expensive-is-better strategy. And this is again where I sound like a conspiracy theorists because there is a dreaded they.
They want you to think expensive is better, they want you to be confused, they don’t want you to think you could solve your issues without them.
But really it’s that there’s 70+ shoes companies in an extremely competitive market and they’re all trying to make payroll by selling what sells. It’s like professional YouTubers – a sensational thumbnail and a clickbait title full of comments telling you you suck is, by the numbers, by the ad revenue, a better video than something sincere that’s totally true and useful but just a little dry.
It’s not evil to follow the sales numbers and worry about your employees feeding their kids.
And yet the thing is – this is me just turning into work venting now – people still get mad at me. In a personally impersonal way. I field complaints all the time where people tell me how much money they spent and their problem isn’t solved and I’m like I know! You spent your money dumbly like a dumb idiot and now you want my sympathy while you’re giving me attitude? Take my name down… ’cause you’re gonna be writing to customer service about me. I didn’t build the industry, I didn’t make the shoe or advertise the shoe, I didn’t chose the shoe to be in our corporate bullshit store, but sure act like the minimum wage employee you meet face-to-face is the author of all your pain. You righteous avenger, you.
I’ve already quit and everyday multiple times a day I wish I could quit again harder.
Anyway, anything left to say? Did I resolve anything for myself?
One thing I should mention that I don’t talk about enough is injury. Acute injury. If you just ruptured your Achilles, yeah, don’t get into barefoot shoes. Specific injuries, chronic and acute might have different specific needs. The problem is the gen pop has been deliberately mislead as to what’s an injury and what’s a weakness. A lot of things labeled as chronic injuries are in fact just weakness and you fix a weakness by getting stronger not by wrapping everything in a cast.
And because we’re talking about runners I have to say specifically I do not mean mental strength. Fighting through pain is being stupid not being strong. Being strong is your body being able to flourish when doing what you ask of it, not ignoring it. Mentally, if you want to be tougher, be tougher; physically, if you have plantar fasciitis, learn to stretch your fucking calves. Let your body do the work in a controlled way, let it practice, so that it doesn’t catastrophically fail you when it’s suddenly tested.
This has just turned into full on self reinforcement. I’d prefer a post be self exploration that gets me somewhere new but I’ll also take something that makes me feel better about where I am.