Physical Therapists Using Clinical Analysis To Discuss The Art And Science Behind Running and The Stuff We Put On Our Feet

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DOR Podcast #107: Listening to Your "Foot Brain": How to Find the Right Running Shoe (ft. Megan Searfoss)

Finding the right shoe, whether it's your first or your fifth, can be daunting. Matt & Andrea are joined by Megan Searfoss, owner of Ridgefield and Darien Running Company, to give a store-owner's perspective on finding the best shoe for you. Megan also shares wisdom from years of running experience and dozens of races including Ironmans and marathons.

Listen to This Week's Podcast Here!

Direct Links: Apple | Spotify | Anchor


About Megan Searfoss

Megan Searfoss is the owner of Ridgefield and Darien Running Company, a run-specialty retailer, located in Ridgefield and Darien, CT. In 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, Ridgefield Running Company was named Top 50 Best Running Stores in America, with 2019 awarded Top Ten, and in 2020 a Top Four Store. A competitive athlete, Megan has competed at the Ironman World Championships and Boston Marathon, 9 Ironman distance events, over 20 marathons, and countless other races.

Though her personal favorite are long-distance events, it is introducing a non-exerciser to training and competing in a 5K that is most rewarding. Time and time again, her encouragement to cross the finish line has changed lives of many women that didn't believe they could. Megan is passionate about engaging women to make health and wellness a part of their lives through Run Like a Mother, a company she founded in 2008. Run Like A Mother® is a branded lifestyle property that encompasses women at every stage of motherhood. Megan created the National Run Like a Mother® 5K race event series, a women's only 5K occurring every Mother's Day.

The Subjective: How did you get into running?

0:00 - Intro
4:12 - Megan's background
13:46 - Megan's favorite races
17:26 - Advice for longevity in your running career
23:36 - The making of a great running store
27:42 - Using your "foot brain" in finding the right shoe for you
29:47 - Finding the right size shoe
32:52 - Replace your old shoes! (And sports bras)
36:28 - Advice for building back after injury
44:18 - The benefits of a running community
47:22 - How Megan trains her store employees
51:20 - How Megan decides what shoes to stock
1:03:40 - How customers can improve their shoe-buying experience
1:06:56 - Megan's favorite shoes right now
1:09:11 - Wrap-up

What is the Current Science on Recovery Footwear?
By Chief Editor Matt Klein

There is very little research on recovery shoes. Most of it has been done privately by cmpanies and has not been released to the public. The few studies out there do not have the best methodology and make some exaggerated claims. One of the most notable studies thus far has been from Nakagawa et al., (2018) that suggested that soft, maximalist, rockered shoes improved isometric force output and muscle hardness after a marathon within 24 hours compared to 8 days in the control group.

This author did another study in 2014, but I will not cite it or discuss it further here because it is absolute garbage. For a very thorough and well done analysis of that article, I encourage you to read Craig Payne's thoughts HERE. The 2018 article (while not perfect) does suggest that a few shoe components may facilitate recovery faster. Additional extrapolated evidence may come from a systematic review done last year on shoe types that may impact lower limb blood flow (Lerebourg et al., 2020). Similar conclusions were made, with unstable and soft shoes facilitate better blood flow compared to shoes with firmer, high heeled, immobilization or barefoot conditions. This may be due to the muscle pump effect on the venous system. The veins do not have muscles in them to pump blood out of the limbs and back to the heart. They rely on pressure from external forces and from the arteries. That pressure frequently comes from muscle pumps, ie the surrounding muscle tissue contracting and helping squeeze blood back to the heart. This is the basis for the concept of active recovery and why staying moving in a way that doesn't overtax the system tends to improve recovery. 

In this case, soft unstable shoes may continue to increase muscle activation, which may help keep the body and blood flow going. However, you have to stay moving in some way to get this. Just sitting while wearing these shoes may not have much of an impact. Walking around in them however might. The rockered sole will reduce work at the ankle (which is a common place for fatigue after long distance running). The softer and thicker midsoles will reduce the perception of impact, potentailly allowing for more mobility. The instability may improve muscle activation (this is a debatable topic for another day). However, you have to be moving to get the benefits. So remember, active recovery post exercise is very helpful. These footwear types MIGHT help with that, but we need a great deal more research before we make definite conclusions on this subject.

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