90 at 90: What’s hindering your running form? Published July 15, 2012 By By Airman 1st Class Mariah Haddenham 36th Wing Public Affairs ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Cardiovascular exercise is a vital part of any fitness regimen and important to servicemembers training for mission-readiness. There is a common misconception that running shoes make the runner, or that a certain shoe will make those who wear it faster, but the foundation of good running does not start with shoes. "The most common problem that people have when it comes to running is that they are simply running improperly and that results in an injury, "said Byron Hardy, 36th Wing Medical Operation Support Squadron exercise physiologist. A popular type of running shoe being seen more frequently is the "minimalist shoe." "The shoe is exactly what the name states it as," said Mr. Hardy. "The shoe is light-weight and more comparable to running barefoot than other shoes with thicker soles and arch support." The difference between most running shoes and minimalist running shoes is that many styles have thicker soles and stronger arch supports, with more material used to make the shoe itself. Minimalist shoes eliminate the weight of the shoe that can disrupt natural running form. "Heavier shoes are not better," said Mr. Hardy. "Shoes with heavier soles promote heel strike, which happens when the runner's foot lands in front of their center of gravity on their heel. When running properly, the foot should land directly under the runner's center of gravity and the impact point would be the ball of the foot." Using the heel of the foot as an impact point can lead to shin splints, stress fractures and Plantar Fasciitis. "The problem with these over-supportive running shoes is that they weaken the natural strength of the foot as well as the tendons in the foot, which makes the runner more susceptible to injury," said Mr. Hardy. "Then when the runner realizes this and tries to switch to a minimalist shoe, they have a hard time because their feet are now dependant on the stability of that over-supportive shoe." Servicemembers who have made the transition from over-supportive shoes to minimalist shoes have realized the vast difference in their running form, reducing the number of injuries as well. "I have had shin splints since basic training in 2006," said Staff Sgt. Kirsten Roberts, 36th Wing Force Support Squadron fitness specialist. "I tried everything to alleviate this chronic condition, including going on numerous profiles. After seeing my primary care provider, I was referred me to physical therapy, where I was then referred to a Podiatrist to be fitted for orthotic inserts for my shoes." On the verge of developing stress fractures in her tibias, trying a minimalist shoe was the last resort for Sergeant Roberts. "I started off training in them slowly and gradually, as recommended," she said. "This was almost two years ago and I have not had a single issue with shin splints. I've improved my run time and have scored the highest I ever have on my physical training test." Fitness is not just about overall health, but injury preventions as well. Individual fitness is important for maintaining mission readiness; keeping Team Andersen postured for tomorrows fight. "The shoes aren't everything when it comes to running. It starts with eating right, living a healthy lifestyle and practicing proper form," said Mr. Hardy. "But a good running shoe couldn't hurt."