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John McAlpine
(HairlessApe) - M

Locale: PNW
Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/16/2012 11:15:00 MDT Print View

So I've been looking for some new shoes for a 500 mile hike this August. Last year a did a similar hike with trail running shoes (NB 910's)and got a single massive blister under the ball of each foot. Is this why we like flatter shoes on BPL? Do higher heel shoes put more weight on the ball of the foot?
I bought a pair of GoLite Amp Lite Trail shoes from STP. I have them on now and they are amazingly comfortable and flat. I was looking for the GoLite Carbo Lite shoes in 10.5, but no luck anywhere. Any advise on why flat shoes are better would be appreciated.
John

Daniel Smith
(scissor) - F
re flat on 04/16/2012 11:44:46 MDT Print View

"Do higher heel shoes put more weight on the ball of the foot?"

In theory it does the opposite. The bigger heel cushion trend has made it so we are more inclined to put more weight on our heels which causes more joint impact than we would naturally.

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/16/2012 16:08:14 MDT Print View

My first thought about your blisters is that your shoe maybe doesn't fit right. Blisters are commonly (but not always) the result of rubbing and friction.

The next thing I might look at is the thickness and/or protection under the forefoot. If the blisters were from impact and not friction then you probably need more forefoot protection or cushion.

I think the flatness of your shoes is a distant third on the likely causes of your blisters. A flatter (lower drop) shoe might promote landing on your forefoot as the previous poster noted, but in my opinion this has more to do with your hiking form than your shoe geometry for WALKING. When running, I feel it's a bit different where the shoe geometry plays a more important role in where your foot strikes land.

This could sound a bit counterintuitive given that a flatter shoe will promote landing more on your forefoot. But if you have a higher drop shoe (i.e. built up heel padding) there could be a tendency to heel strike and then slap your forefoot on the ground as you follow through with the stride. Think slapping instead of rolling motion.

10 to 1 bet though that it's a poorly fitting shoe. Perhaps they're too long or your heel isn't locked in properly causing your foot to slide forwards and backwards inside the shoe as you move.


Oh and as for your last question about why flat shoes are better. This isn't necessarily true and you can read volumes of supporting opinions for either case. I personally prefer relatively flat shoes, but that has to do with my running form, which now that I understand this better may actually have developed as a result of moving to lighter and lighter shoes in the past which may have pushed me towards a midfoot as opposed to heel strike because of the typical design of lighter shoes. All this occured before I ever heard the term "drop" much less understood the way it worked.

Edited by 7sport on 04/16/2012 16:13:10 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/16/2012 16:21:40 MDT Print View

> got a single massive blister under the ball of each foot.
A common cause for this is wearing shoes which are too narrow for you.
Have you measured the width of your foot on a Brannock device?

Cheers

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
Blister a good thing? on 04/16/2012 21:12:06 MDT Print View

Something similar happened to me when I started running in "huarachas" made out of a pair of simple flip flops. I got a large beginning-of-a-blister across the whole of the ball of my foot. Since I only ran every other day it never got very bad and within a few days it had disappeared but I noticed the soles of my feet had gotten thicker and almost padded instead. I took this to be a good thing as I usually get blisters on my toes but not with those shoes.

You didn't say but if you got one blister per foot on a 500 mile hike I'd say that's pretty good :)

Todd Taylor
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Why WOULDN'T flat shoes be better? on 04/16/2012 22:51:13 MDT Print View

I'll never understand where the idea came from to put high heels on athletic shoes (which is what hiking boots/shoes are). I just don't get it.

john hansford
(jhansford) - MLife
Why WOULDN'T flat shoes be better? on 04/17/2012 02:27:06 MDT Print View

A completely flat sole will put more strain on your Achilles tendon, and in 500 mls that could give you Achilles tendonitis - can be debilitating, and hard to get rid of.

John McAlpine
(HairlessApe) - M

Locale: PNW
THANKS on 04/17/2012 08:28:41 MDT Print View

I appreciate all the input. Once the blisters started I found myself taping them each morning to make it possible to walk on. They were really ugly and solid red meat.

ROdger, The width of my shoes were 2E. I bought the New Balance shoes for their width. I felt that my blisters may have been caused by to much room allowing my feet to move around??? I don't want the same to happen this summer. Nice MYOG tent by the way.

I'm amazed how difficult it is to find that perfect footwear.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/17/2012 09:09:23 MDT Print View

When we talk about hiking and blisters on the feet, they are all caused by friction in my book, hence the term "friction blister". Of course there are blistering diseases, but that is different.

Todd Taylor
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/17/2012 09:27:41 MDT Print View

Friction, yes, but it may be more useful to break that down: rubbing, pressure, repetition. When I've had ball-of-foot blisters, it's not very much rubbing but repetitive steps with a lot of pressure. I recently got blisters on the balls of my feet from walking on an old railroad grade--it was flat and hard, no variation from step to step. Repetitive stress over 45 miles got me even though I've hiked several hundred miles in those very well fitting shoes. Sometimes there's nothing you can do but let your feet toughen.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/17/2012 10:01:12 MDT Print View

"Why do we like flat shoes?"

Because we were born without shoes, and flat shoes are just meant to protect our feet from sharp or pointed objects? Shoes with large heel to toe drop and other adjustments to natural walking foot strike or stride are marketing black magic to make shoe companies more money.

Most world class distance runners from Africa spent their youth running very long distances sans shoes. The fact they get paid endorsement fees to wear shoes today might be worth considering.

So if one is not overweight or carrying heavy loads (creating unnatural forces on the feet) barefoot or minimal shoes to protect the bottom of the foot on rough terrain is the most natural way to walk. Also if you walk and go without shoes most of the time when not hiking, your feet get tough and reduce the likelihood of blisters or other maladies.

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
Re: Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/17/2012 10:12:24 MDT Print View

Usain Bolt might disagree with the black magic comment above. But I don't really want to start down that path in this thread. Especially since I myself actually prefer a lower drop (but not flat) shoe.

There are all kinds of advances and inventions that add efficiency to the way humans operate. The natural way isn't alwasy the most efficient, so that's a pretty weak argument.

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/17/2012 10:48:25 MDT Print View

There are all kinds of advances and inventions that add efficiency to the way humans operate. The natural way isn't alwasy the most efficient, so that's a pretty weak argument.

This comment is spot on. The problem with the "natural = optimal" argument is that evolution does not produce optimal solutions! It only produces the best solution possible within the range of variability that exists. So, there's no theoretical reason why extra cushioning shouldn't be better for walking than minimalist shoes.

Whether minimal or cushioned shoes are best is a pragmatic question that can only be answered with actual research on how shoes affects the body, not arguments about what we evolved with.

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
Re: Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/17/2012 11:22:39 MDT Print View

"There are all kinds of advances and inventions that add efficiency to the way humans operate. The natural way isn't alwasy the most efficient, so that's a pretty weak argument.

This comment is spot on. The problem with the "natural = optimal" argument is that evolution does not produce optimal solutions! It only produces the best solution possible within the range of variability that exists. So, there's no theoretical reason why extra cushioning shouldn't be better for walking than minimalist shoes.

Whether minimal or cushioned shoes are best is a pragmatic question that can only be answered with actual research on how shoes affects the body, not arguments about what we evolved with."



Ack! Where to begin? How about here: "It only produces the best solution possible within the range of variability that exists." - Isn't that the very definition of optimal? Unless conditions have changed evolution *has* found the best solution and we should be very cautious about thinking we can improve on it. I'd accept that road walking/running is a change in conditions because those are man made surfaces that we didn't evolve with. But certainly for trail walking I don't think we face anything our ancestors didn't.

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/17/2012 11:25:51 MDT Print View

" But certainly for trail walking I don't think we face anything our ancestors didn't."

But we do have technologies and knowledge that they didn't have.

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Why do we like flat shoes? on 04/17/2012 11:41:55 MDT Print View

We definitely have technologies our ancestors didn't. I suppose we have knowledge too, although I bet we don't think about things like walking as much as they did because it was more important to them. For us it's recreation not a daily necessity. We also have a lot of marketing hype which can cloud the issue.

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
tendons on 04/17/2012 11:52:16 MDT Print View

"A completely flat sole will put more strain on your Achilles tendon, and in 500 mls that could give you Achilles tendonitis - can be debilitating, and hard to get rid of."

While I'm on roll here I have to say I find this to be just ridiculous (sorry).

If you have trained your tendons/muscles/whatever over years to expect a heel then you have changed their shape/structure/whatever and, yes, changing suddenly to a new shoe with hard use might be expected to cause problems. But if you never trained to a heel or if you retrained to no heel over a reasonable time then it's silly to say that would hurt you. The reason is not because I know anything about physiology but because if that were true then adding the shoe in the first place would have caused tendonitis. After all we weren't born with them and for all anyone knows the "optimal" shoe is a kind of special jelly that we haven't invented yet. So obviously our physiology is flexible and adaptable. In any case heels have not been around in history all that long. Did all people have tendonitis in the middle ages?

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
@Theron on 04/17/2012 12:11:09 MDT Print View

Ack! Where to begin? How about here: "It only produces the best solution possible within the range of variability that exists." - Isn't that the very definition of optimal? Unless conditions have changed evolution *has* found the best solution and we should be very cautious about thinking we can improve on it. I'd accept that road walking/running is a change in conditions because those are man made surfaces that we didn't evolve with. But certainly for trail walking I don't think we face anything our ancestors didn't.

Ack, ack! I don't think you understand evolution. Evolution is the process by which variants are selected for their effects on fitness. Evolution only produces the best solution among the alternatives that it has to choose from. This isn't optimal--it's just the best of whatever different kinds of variants exist in a population. As a result, many aspects of the human body are decidedly non-optimal! We choke easily, our teeth are awful, ditto for our backs, etc. etc.

The bottom line is that just because we didn't evolve with cushioned shoes does not make them automatically worse. We didn't evolve with fluoride toothpaste, but lord knows that our teeth do better with it than what our ancestors did--pick at their teeth with pieces of bone. Human bodies are not optimal--in many ways, we do better doing things differently than we did 100,000 years ago.

FWIW, I'm not arguing that cushioned shoes are better! Just that you can't know if they're better without actually testing them. Evolution can't help you answer that question.

Edited by sschloss1 on 04/17/2012 12:14:26 MDT.

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
Re: @Theron on 04/17/2012 13:28:08 MDT Print View

Hi Scott, I get what you're saying but here's my thinking on this:

Yes evolution chooses from among the alternatives it has available. But the point is that after millenia it has had an awful lot of variants to choose from. In fact, when talking about something as tried and true as foot structure I think it's reasonable to assume it has had *essentially all* variants that are meaningful to planet earth as we know it to choose from. So while in theory evolution can be improved on, in practice it's extremely unlikely to find a solution that has not already been considered and either adopted or rejected already, probably several times over.

As far as the shoes go my impression is that you would say that there is maybe a 50/50 chance that we can develop an improvement for our feet in say 100 years of shoe development. Whereas I would say that, given the above, there is maybe a 1% chance. I think we need cushioning to walk on the artificial surfaces we have created and protect against man made hazards like broken glass, but to improve on the mechanics of walking - this is very difficult to do if only because the foot is so sophisticated that you can't easily repurpose it to something new.

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Re: @Theron on 04/17/2012 13:54:43 MDT Print View

Yes evolution chooses from among the alternatives it has available. But the point is that after millenia it has had an awful lot of variants to choose from.
Nope, that's not true at all. New variants arise by mutation of DNA. The vast, vast majority of mutations are harmful and are purged from a population. The frequency of new, useful variants is low. This is why evolution is generally conservative (you see more similarity than change if you look back through history).

Meanwhile, you've ignored my entire point about many parts of our bodies being sub-optimally designed or better off with modern technology than without. In the big picture, feet are no different than teeth. Just because they evolved one way does not mean they might not do better with some sort of new equipment.