The American College of Sports Medicine’s New Guidelines for Selecting Running Shoes

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, just completely overhauled its recommendations for selecting running shoes. which you can read here, are very different than what they’ve previously been for many, many years.

The impetus for the change has come from numerous studies, including a number of my own research studies, on the effects of footwear and various footwear attributes on human movement, biomechanics, and health. In the past, the ACSM recommended that running shoes be heavily cushioned in the heel and have arch support.

Here is what the ACSM now says about the characteristics of a good, safe running shoe:

Characteristics of a good, safe running shoe include:
• Minimal heel-to-toe drop: This drop is the difference in the thickness of the heel cushion to the thickness in the forefoot cushion area. Shoes with no drop or a small drop 6mm or less are the best choice for allowing the foot to normally support loading during each gait cycle
• Neutral: This means the shoe does not contain motion control or stability components. These extra components interfere with normal foot motion during weight bearing.
• Light in weight: (10 ounces or less for a men’s size 9; 8 ounces or less for women’s size 8)


Does this sound like our OESH La Vida v2.0? You bet! 

Most non-OESH running shoes available today do not have the above characteristics. The current heel-toe drop on most running shoes is 12 mm or more (about a half-inch). This may not seem like a big deal but my research has shown that any heel-toe drop (from the heel all the way to the very tip of the toe) increases the pressures and forces in joints that are susceptible to injury. Which is why the La Vida has no heel-toe drop whatsoever. In addition to failing on the heel-toe drop characteristic, virtually every non-OESH running shoe available today has some motion control or stability component built-in to the shoe. The new guidelines read “pronation is normal…stopping pronation with materials in the shoes may actually cause foot or knee problems to develop.” Again, my research has shown that any motion control or stability component in a shoe abnormally increases forces upward beyond the foot, into the knee. Which is why I went to the trouble to make the sole of the La Vida perfectly flat with absolutely no built-in motion control or stability features or gimmicks.

It will take a good while for the major shoe companies to catch up in making shoes that fulfill the ACSM’s New Guidelines as that will require re-vamping their entire manufacturing processes as I discuss here in the article “The Race to Build a Better Shoe,” published in the IEEE engineering journal.

I applaud the ACSM for making these changes and specifically the authors, Kevin and Heather Vincent who are former students of mine. Kevin, who has an M.D. and also a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology, did his residency with me when I was professor and chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Virginia, and his wife, Heather, who has a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology, also worked in our department. They now run a Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Florida that is modeled after the one I directed at the University of Virginia. I had no idea that they were working on these specific guidelines and am looking forward to catching up with them in person soon.

But I won’t interview them specifically about the new ACSM guidelines. I’m leaving that to my friend Dr. Mark Cucuzzella from the Natural Running Center who will be interviewing them and putting together a full article sometime soon. Mark gave a nice little preview for that interview on the Natural Running Center website here.

In the meantime…

Viva La Vida!

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