Can shoes encourage a heel strike?

I was watching one of my clients doing the “World’s Greatest” stretch as part of their warmup, and I decided to do a little experiment. So I grabbed my flip video and asked him to start over without any instruction. Here is the video:

Then I asked him to take his shoes off and start again; also without any instruction.

Notice anything? Say, the way he lands?

With shoes, it’s an aggressive heel strike. I realize I stopped him after 2 steps with shoes, but what you saw in the video reflects how he normally lands that exercise.

With socks, he does one heel strike but then corrects it to a mid-foot strike. There has been a lot of talk of minimalist shoes over the past couple of years. One of the key points that is often made is that people naturally move to a heel strike gait when wearing cushioning shoes but somehow they just automatically move to a midfoot strike when the shoe is gone. Personally I was a bit skeptical that our body would change an ingrained habit with a simple footwear change, and yet…here it is. Cool! Yet more evidence at how amazing the human body is. And maybe another nail in the coffin of big cushion-y shoes.

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