Minimalist, maximalist, barefoot, cushioning?

I recently had the opportunity whilst waiting for it to stop snowing in London, to listen to a podcast.

In part, running footwear was discussed, and in particular, the discussion focused on the effect of cushioned footwear on running related parameters like running economy. Inevitably the discussion covered minimalism and barefoot, which were widely considered to be of little value (in itself something that needs more debate), but then, attention turned to "maximalism", specifically Hokas, and the effect of cushioning.

So, there are a couple of things  I would like to clarify:

  1. As a paradigm, the concept that cushioning in athletic footwear can or will prevent injury is disproved
  2. This is because it has been repeatedly shown that impact loading, particularly the focus on reducing the first impact peak Fz1, has no measurable effect on injury
  3. It would make sense that as one runs faster, and impact loads are higher, injury should increase - it does not
  4. Even when cushioning is increased, there appears to be no effect on injury
  5. and.. we have known since at least 1977 that increasing midsole hardness is likely to reduce the magnitude of the first impact peak
  6. This is probably due to the automatic modulation of lower limb kinematics like subtalar joint pronation and knee flexion and reduced lower limb stiffness with a harder midsole
  7. So, the importance of cushioning probably lies in not much more than simple comfort, which is important, but many other things must be considered.

I struggle with the conclusions drawn from the podcast in relation to cushioning and shoes like the Hoka. For a start, the fact that the Hoka has a significant rocker was not even mentioned, and it is highly likely that this is a more important feature of the Hoka shoe than its weight, midsole stack or drop.

Simon Bartold
Director of Bartold Clinical