No I am not talking about steel or aluminum! The answer to that question is between you and your horse. If you are running, hiking, playing golf or tennis the answer seems pretty obvious-it seems you would choose the shoe made specifically for the sport. Or would you? Just keep reading to find out!
And what if you are doing an activity that requires you to move in all directions quickly and with agility? What if you are using a Beachbody program like Insanity, T25 or P90X3? Then what kind of shoes do you need?
I can tell with 100% certainty what you do NOT want to use for a multi-directional fitness workout-running shoes. As much as running shoes have become a fashion staple in other areas of life, attempting the Insanity Asylum ladder drills in a pair of running kicks is just asking for an injury to come looking for you.
Court shoes are a great choice if you want a traditional structured shoe that will allow you to move forward, backward and side to side without increasing your risk of rolling an ankle. However, thanks to companies like Altra Zero Drop, Vibram Five Fingers and Vivobarefoot, there is also another option for virtually any athletic activity on your list. The coolest part? You don’t even need a separate shoe for each sport!
What I’m talking about is a kind of shoe called a “minimalist shoe.” Wikipedia defines a minimalist shoe as one that is “intended to closely approximate barefoot running conditions. They have reduced cushioning, thin soles, and are of lighter weight than other running shoes, allowing for more sensory contact for the foot on the ground.”
While thin soles and reduced cushioning might have been true of the first minimalist shoes (like Vibram Five Fingers), many current models do offer thicker soles (called the “stack”) while still remaining pure to the light weight, wide toe box style that allows your foot to ‘splay’ on ground contact, resulting in a very efficiently functioning foot.
So what makes minimalist shoes different? Minimalist shoes (also called barefoot shoes) have one thing in common: they are either a shoe without an elevated heel or one with only a tiny bit of heel elevation (called the “drop”). Shoes that have a heel elevated more than about 3-5 mm are considered “transition shoes” that help people safely graduate from a traditional shoe to one without an elevation.
What makes barefoot “better?” Wearing shoes with any kind of heel creates muscle imbalances in the calf, hamstrings, muscles in the front of the leg and ultimately contributes to the improper function of the ankle joint. This postural distortion and malfunction can lead to plantar fasciitis, Achilles’ troubles, shin splits, and ankle sprains (just to name a few!!). I don’t know about you, but those results sound like bad news to this active horse lover!
As beneficial as barefoot or minimalist shoes can be on many levels, it is extremely important to be smart during the transition process. Making the transition too quickly can result in a lot of unnecessary discomfort and even injury. There are many stores that specialize in minimalist shoes. Look for one that has a staff equipped to help you make wise choices when deciding to trade foot support for the ultimate foot strength. I shop at Natural Strides, located in Woodstock, GA (they ship!). Just ask for Greg or Erin to get you all hooked up with the latest model of minimalist shoes!
Or you can always do what the boys do around here…go bare. Hooved that is!