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The Monday Shakeout: What Do We Mean When We Talk About Proprioception?
By DOR Editorial Team

In this edition of the Monday Shakeout, we're doing a bit of a round-up of sorts on a topic we've talked a lot about: proprioception. Pulling together some selected pieces our team has wrote about proprioception, we hope this piece helps readers get a better understanding of why it can be important to runners when looking for a shoe.

What Do We Mean When We Talk about Proprioception? 
By Andrea Myers

Proprioception was originally defined by neurophysiologist Charles Sherrington as “
the perception of joint and body movement as well as position of the body, or body segments, in space.”. Put more simply, proprioception is the body's joint position sense. A person with normal proprioception does not need to look at their hand to know that their fingers are bent; the sensory receptors in our muscles, tendons, and joints give the brain this information without any effort on our part. When running, we subconsciously rely on our lower extremity proprioceptors to relay information about any irregularity in the surface we are running on. Proprioceptive input is even more important when trail running due to the constant changes in surface as we run over rocks, roots, loose dirt, and other uneven terrain.

The term proprioceptor refers to any of the sensory receptors that communicate joint or muscle position information. These receptors are called mechanoreceptors and are found in muscle, tendons, and in joints themselves. The receptors found in muscle tissue are called muscle spindles, which are bundles of muscle fibers surrounded by connective tissue. The muscle spindle provides the spinal cord and brain information about muscle length. Muscle spindle density varies throughout the body, and is greatest in muscles that produce precise movements (such as the intrinsic muscles of the hand).

The proprioceptors found in tendons are called Golgi tendon organs. They are located at the interface between muscle and tendon and relay information regarding changes in muscle tension to the spinal cord and brain. When a muscle is in a relaxed, shortened state, the Golgi tendon organ is silent. As tension increases in the muscle, the Golgi tendon organs increase their firing rate.

The proprioceptors found in joints are located in the connective tissue that surrounds the joint called the joint capsule, as well as in the ligaments that stabilize the joint. These receptors provide information about motion at the extremes of joint range of motion - for example, when the knee joint is fully bent or fully straight.

Proprioception: A Balancing Act
By David Salas

All of our joints have these special nerve endings that provide feedback for our brain to help with decision making and adjusting. One of the things our proprioceptors feed off of most is contact and touch. When we are firmly grounded we can feel our surroundings and make accurate decisions easier. When we add a foam underneath us (in some cases a balance pad) this makes us work much harder at the foot/ankle, knee, and hip. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as highly cushioned foams can actually help some with force attenuation.

It is important to look into what helps with improving connectivity of the joint, surface, and brain connection. In a shoe this means making that initial contact those early stance phases as smooth as possible so we can make accurate decisions as we transfer into the forefoot. Some things that anecdotally can help with this include posterior lateral heel bevels, sidewalls, and sole flaring. Even if our foot does what it wants in a shoe, having something physical it touches can still help with a sense of guidance and change the interaction moving into the forefoot.

Proprioception and Stability
By Matt Klein

I have discussed this previously on this blog that many shoes labeled as stability or put in that category are not as stable as they claim. The labels may need to be done away with as there are multiple ways besides a post to do stability. These all include wider soles, heel counters, posting (as mentioned), sole wedges, sole density changes (also technically posting), upper fits, rocker soles, etc. These and more contribute to whether the shoe is stable or not. In the case of the Hoka Arahi for example, though it is labeled as a stability shoe and has different density midsole materials (aka posting) that should provide stability, the softer sole sabotages that. A softer sole is inherently more unstable. Like running on pillows vs cement. Adding firmer density material will create a degree of stability, but not to the degree Hoka claims. This shoe is a mild stability shoe at most thanks to the softer sole. It is helped somewhat by the wide last but the softness detracts from that stability.

Stability shoes should generally be firmer. Not bone crushing, but the increased firmness not only provides a more stable platform, but can provide increased proprioceptive feedback that may help the runner realize where their bodies are. Proprioception is an individual's sense of their body and body parts within space. This is very important to runners to know how hard they are landing, where they are landing, if they need to modify their shock absorbing capabilities based on the surface, whether they need to modify their steps due to unstable terrain and more. It is something I commonly see lacking in those with repeated injuries because there may be a delay in their detection of how much force is going through their bodies (interestingly I also see this commonly in those with shoulder, low back and neck issues).

Decreased proprioception may lead to delayed muscle firing and prep for landing during the initial contact phase of running. Your shock absorbers, ie the quads, glutes and depending on your foot strike the anterior lower leg muscles or calves need to be on before you land to prepare to absorb landing forces.

Decreased proprioception means the individual may misjudge when that landing is about to happen. So instead of your muscles being ready to absorb those impact forces, the delay means you must now relay on passive structures (tendons, ligaments, joints, etc) to deal with those forces. You can image over time how that could lead to an injurious situation. Having a shoe be a little more firm does mean a little more impact, but the interesting thing is that tends to improve muscle loading. Our theories are that the increased firmness and initial shock activates more joint receptors, which in turn may help proprioception, initiate protective response and increase muscle firing. If nothing else, the firmness also provides a better contrast between the firmer posting and the traditional foam. Thus you will be able to feel the stability more than an overly soft shoe.

Some of Our Favorite Shoes with Good Proprioception

Altra Escalante 3 | Review
Purpose: Zero drop trainer

The Altra Escalante is a minimalist road running shoe that has a very natural feel to it. The shoe uses a 0mm drop platform, meaning there is no difference in height between the heel and the forefoot. The shoe has moderately flexible design to it and a comfortable knit upper. For some this will be a walking shoe/running shoe double and for some it could even be a speed work shoe. 

Topo Athletics ST-5 | Review
Purpose: Minimalist trainer

The Topo ST-5 is a zero drop, minimally cushioned, flexible road shoe that can handle running, gym work and even racing if you can. A wide-toe box with a comfortable upper sits up top, providing a comfortable and somewhat low fit. A zero drop, 14mm stack height of Zipfoam provides a surprising amount of cushioning for how low to the ground this shoe is for easy miles.

Salomon Aero Volt | Review
Purpose: Nimble daily trainer

The Salomon Aero Volt is a lightweight trainer for someone that wants a firmer ride and a grounded feel. The midsole doesn't have crazy pop but feels nice for daily efforts and slight uptempo efforts. Traction and security is good enough for offroading as well. For those that have a nostalgic feel for the lightweight trainers and racers of the 2000s, this gives me (David) some positive vibes from that era.

Brooks Hyperion GTS | Review

Purpose: Stability workout/racing

The Brooks Hyperion GTS is a mild stability lightweight trainer/racer for those who want something a little closer to the ground for faster efforts. A full-length DNA flash midsole is paired with guiderails making for a guided, flexible and snappy ride.

Saucony Sinister | Review

Purpose: Workout/Racing

The Saucony Sinister is a lower profile racing flat for those wanting a natural and flexible ride with a responsive midsole. The shoe fits similar to a track spike throughout and maintains a performance profile throughout. The full contact outsole and dialed in upper makes this a solid shoe for quicker workouts, races, and track work.

Xero Scrambler Low | Review
Purpose: Nimble trail runner

The Xero Scrambler Low is a rugged minimal trail running shoe for those who want an anatomic fitting and flexible ride with solid grip and durability for the trail. A full-length Michelin sole provides both traction and protection on a variety of trail surfaces. The upper fits anatomic but is tough enough to handle off-roading. The ride is flexible but has a surprising amount of midsole for a minimal trail running shoe. This makes the Scrambler Low an excellent option for those who want a minimal ride on the trail that still has good traction and durability for whatever comes your way.

Salomon Sense Ride 5 | Review
Purpose: Protective, low profile

The Salomon Sense Ride 5 is a versatile trail running shoe that you can take on nearly any excursion. The ride is very balanced and does not feel overly rockered or aggressive. The underfoot cushioning is certainly on the firmer end but does just fine on the trails. The lugs are shallow and don't get anything caught in them, though still deep enough to grip pretty well. The Sense Ride 5 is a solid training trail shoe for knocking down miles.


Han, J., Waddington, G., Adams, R., Anson, J., & Liu, Y. (2016). Assessing proprioception: A critical review of methods. Journal of sport and health science, 5(1), 80–90.

Tuthill, J and Azim, E. (2018). Proprioception. Current Biology, 28(5), 194-203.


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Ultraspire Fitted Race Belt: The best way to carry your phone and goods on the run. No bounce and various sizes for waist. (Also recommend the Naked belt)
Saysky Running Gear: We were really taken aback by this Scandinavian company's ultra-thin, durable performance clothing
Skratch Recovery, Coffee Flavor: Mental and physical boost post run. Coffee flavor is excellent and goes great straight into a fresh brewed cup
goodr Sunglases: Run in style with goodr's super fun sunglasses.
Feetures Socks: Massively grippy socks that will make you feel more one with the shoe
Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Water Bottle: Perfect for long runs when you need hydration in the summer
Trigger Point Foam Roller: Help get those knots out post-run and feel better for tomorrow
Theragun Massager: This small version is great on the go for working tired legs
Ciele Hat: Our team's favorite running hat of choice!
Fractel Hats: Our team's wider fitting running hat of choice!


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My Favorite Flat Feet Shoes of 2023

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