Do cushioning shoes actually minimize impact?
Katelyn Sander

Do cushioning shoes actually minimize impact?

Living Well

Imagine you’re sparring in a ring. Bare hands. Try to feel or experience the power and energy as you thrust your fist forward. What does the impact feel like? How snappy is your recoil?

Now put some big padded gloves on your hand. How do the movement patterns change?

Likely you punch with more force. You commit to laying into your target a little deeper. And your recoil? Not as responsive. It doesn’t need to be.

The gloves are designed to absorb a lot of shock. Your elbows and shoulders can extend more. You don’t need to store nearly as much energy to power a quick recoil. You can land more power into the punch. The simple fact of placing weighted, cushioned gloves on then end of your arms affects your brain. Dramatically. And these effects build the more you wear the gloves.

Great boxers train both ways. With and without gloves. For good reason.

But we’re not here to talk about boxing. We’re here to discuss shoes. There are millions of different kinds of shoes out there. And I’d love to take the time to better understand the implications of wearing any and all of them. Today, we’re looking at one type: Cushioning shoes. Built for walking and running.

The purported purpose of cushioning in athletic shoes is to increase comfort and buffer the forces generated each time your foot hits the ground. Typically, cushioning shoes will also be elevated in the heel to some degree, mitigating strain on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.

Here’s something interesting to think about: Studies have shown that wearing highly cushioned shoes results in runners hitting the ground with greater impact and with a more extended knee. In other words, a person’s running mechanics shift so the legs naturally absorb less shock. This will impact mechanics and training stimuli throughout the body, including activation requirements at the ankle, knee, pelvis, and throughout the spine. Simply put: More spring in the shoes = less spring in the body. There’s some evidence to show that the effect increases as the cushioning goes up.

Please don’t head out for a 10km walk or run in your socks or Vibram shoes right now.

Too much AND too little cushioning leads to higher impacts. 

In general, your neuromuscular system will adapt to what you wear on your feet when you exercise. The tendons, muscles, ligaments, and even bones will strengthen appropriately based on the load. Some people run and walk in minimal shoes and love them. Some people have – over the course of YEARS – developed and built the ability to run in minimal footwear. Such people are often naturally forefoot strikers, or managed to move their strike pattern in that direction. Forefoot striking requires incredible force generation from the calf muscle, requires a lot of work through the Achilles tendons and the arches of the feet, and is not for everyone.

People who naturally run with a strong heel strike pattern typically need some amount of cushioning. Most runners will tend more towards a heel strike pattern or hit with more force into their heels as they get fatigued. This suggests to me that even minimalist runners might benefit from using a little extra cushioning on their longer runs. Unless their running the trails where we naturally control more through the pelvis in order to lift the feet over obstacles and stay balanced through uneven terrain.

The bottom line: Don’t throw out your shoes. Be aware that providing “outside” cushioning anywhere on your body will change how your body needs to adapt and strengthen. Reducing cushioning a little for some of your activities will ensure your entire body remains attuned to how to effectively respond to external forces – mostly ground forces in this case – and will ensure your joints, tendons, muscles, and bones continue to be adequately stimulated. Remember the human body doesn’t respond to age per se. It responds to stimulus or lack thereof. Of course, too much load can lead to injury. Too little leads to stagnation.

So what amount is just right? Goldilocks might know…

Inspiration of the Day

“Despite its questionable value for reducing injury risk and improving efficiency, minimalist running is an effective way to strengthen the muscles of the arch. Running short distances with minimalist shoes is also an excellent gait-retraining tool because these shoes force runners to shorten their stride and increase cadence. Although almost always associated with slightly reduced running speed, these simple gait alterations markedly lessen impact forces, making them useful for treating a wide range of running-related injuries.” – Tom Michaud

Live Workouts of the Day

Today is going to be a great day because we’ve got our THREE regular live workouts for you to join!


Join Adriana for your morning pick-me-up! This workout will focus on moving through a full range of motion and develop your full body control, flexibility, and usable range.

Recommended equipment: yoga block or pillow

Join Adriana at 7:30am (45 minutes) from your own living room.

Click here to join the workout.

Meeting ID: 812 2541 6617
Password: 013104


Get an amazing cardiovascular workout on an indoor bike. The workout will simulate an outdoor ride, including a mix of intervals and hills.

Recommended equipment: bike trainer

Join James at 11:00am (45 minutes) from your own living room.

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Meeting ID: 862 7308 7908
Password: 263088


This workout will challenge you to your max! Come out and perform the prescribed workout for the day. This workout utilizes all your skills, from coordination to endurance and strength. No equipment necessary, you’ll just need your body weight!

Join Gavin today at 12:00pm (35 minutes) from your own living room.

Click here to join the workout.

Meeting ID: 842 2984 9491
Password: 510345


Click here to view this week’s schedule.

To learn more about our virtual live workouts, please reach out to Lauren directly.

Trainer Moves of the Day

Feeling overwhelmed? Struggling to find time to prioritize you and your fitness? Not meeting your 2020 fitness goals?

It’s been easy to fall out of our normal routines this year, but that shouldn’t mean that your fitness suffers. We know it’s hard, that’s why we’re helping members create plans to organize their week (or upcoming 8, 10, 12 weeks) so they can put themselves first.

Click here to check out a week-long plan that a member at the TAC is currently using to keep herself on track.

If you’d like to learn more about our virtual training, please click here.


Do you have a “Something of the Day” you’d like us to share?! Email Meg.

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