Many people firmly believe that trainers are extremely foot-friendly and a healthy choice of footwear. That, however, is not necessarily the case. When it comes to buying, consumers often liken shoes to technical components, like the shock absorber in a car, and follow the reasoning that the more cushioning and more complex sole systems they have, the better they are for the “human walking apparatus”. Consumers are being won over by the increasingly more complex and bulky cushioning systems in footwear. Unsurprisingly, these are products stemming from a large industry that aims to sell its alleged innovations on a mass scale during a short space of time. Your feet and the rest of your body do not merely tolerate heavy impacts, they actually also need them to function optimally! This is because these impacts help to maintain healthy joints and promote the interaction of the body’s muscles and tendons. A particularly softly sprung trainer counteracts the natural suspension system by relaxing and over-relieving the feet. This leads to muscle loss in the foot and weakened tendons, amongst other things. In the worst case scenario, it can even lead to osteoporosis (brittle bone disease). Such cases of osteoporosis, caused by inactivity, are otherwise only common amongst older people, astronauts, the chronically ill and bedridden individuals. A trainer that is padded too softly has a similar effect on the foot as wearing a plaster cast for months has on a fractured arm does – signs of degeneration. Would you believe a mattress salesman if they told you that the softer the mattress is, the better it is for your back? Of course not. The same goes for buying shoes.
Is there such a thing as too much cushioning?
A second, more specific problem arises when the excessive cushioning is built in at the front of the foot: the front of the foot is the area which comes under the most strain as a result of circulatory movements. If this is the most softly padded area, then the foot sinks especially low down in the middle forefoot area – in a similar way to a hammock.
This leads to overstretching in the forefoot area and irritation and over-stimulation of the nerves at the metatarsal head. This particularly affects people with a high body weight (taller people or people who are overweight).
Moreover, we have observed an increase in the spreading and flattening of feet amongst our customers, especially the younger generation, who predominantly wear trainers. Trainers often feature a particularly wide cut. This is due to the fact that they are actually made to be functional sports shoes. They are designed to cushion your weight during sporting activities such as running. When moving, jumping or running downhill, the feet must absorb loads of up to three to five times the weight of a person’s own body weight. The transverse arch of the foot naturally lowers for a few milliseconds (to cushion the impact); the foot stays in this position for a short period of time and then returns to its original form. Trainers (sports shoes and running shoes) therefore feature a design specifically tailored to be wider for functionality purposes, as opposed to normal shoes for everyday wear, which are not designed to account for such stress points. If, however, you wear trainers with a fit that is too wide like this every day and for extended periods of time, then the foot does not support itself but rather relaxes into the surplus space of the shoe over time. Therefore, wearing trainers continually can lead to poor foot posture (spreading or flat feet) or to the feet becoming wider. This widening process is hard to reverse. Therefore, trainers should be worn only in moderation, because healthy feet generally do not need such extreme cushioning. On the contrary – wearing trainers too often can be harmful.