Over the years, I’ve invested a depressing amount of money in running shoes — mostly of the “stability” variety, but I’ve also tested this new lightweight running shoe trend, too. So how I missed the fact that Asics made a shoe to accommodate my menstrual cycle is beyond me, but apparently, I’m not the only one: The shoe, which was made last year, has recently been getting some
press eyerolls from fitness mags and running fanatics, and for obvious reason. But, as my teachers always told me, if you have a question, chances are, other people in class do, too, so here goes: Could Asics really make running on my period better?
Probably not. (Unless dropping $140 on a pair of shoes happens to relieve cramping and headaches for you.) The women’s GEL-Kayano 16 is designed to adjust arch support according to a woman’s cycle — the reason being that changing hormones during menstruation can cause shifting muscle tightness and therefore alter a woman’s arch throughout the month. Tis is how Asics describes their “Gender Specific Space Trusstic System®”:
Studies have shown that a woman’s arch height changes throughout the month as estrogen levels fluctuate. To address this, the Space Trusstic® was altered to accommodate a lowered arch height and give the plantar fascia sufficient space to develop tension and assist windlass mechanics. The adaptive nature of ASICS® Gender Specific Space Trusstic System® provides the female foot with the right levels of support and flexibility as it moves through the gait cycle.
The problem that many have with the shoe is that, like other highly engineered running shoes, the Kayano’s high-tech specs might actually do more harm than good by shifting your natural alignment. Or at least that’s what barefoot running enthusiasts would have you believe.
But Outside‘s blog explains some of the (fairly legit-sounding) reasoning behind using technology like this:
Somewhat controversionally, [Canadian biomechanist Benno Nigg, whose ideas are the basis for the Kayano shoe] believes that running injuries are partly a function of resonance, or the frequency of impact forces as they travel through the body. Each stride produces vibrations, and, according to Nigg, runners unconsciously work to keep those vibrations within a certain, personal range, either by adjusting pace, varying muscle stiffness, or altering body position (bent knee versus straight knee, etc.) Deviation outside that range may cause injury, so Nigg’s idea is to create a shoe that self adjusts to keep impact frequencies stable.
All of which actually makes a lot of sense to me. In college, I experienced repeated shin splints and stress fractures — I was a dedicated runner with a stupid insistence on pushing through pain. By the time I got over my very early-twenties training mentality and saw a running coach to establish a smarter plan, said coach spent a lot of time teaching me to change my form; I’d been running with injuries for so long that my gait was too short and my pace was always slow. It was exactly as Nigg says: I had starting “shuffling,” as my coach referred to it, as a way to protect myself from further damaging my shins. College running anecdotes aside, all you need to do to know that runners change their form when fatigued is watch the finish line at a marathon.
Outside‘s problem with the shoe is that, despite all that, there’s not actually much research indicating that arch support reduces injury in long-distance runners.
I don’t have a problem with my shoe, per se, but do I think it’s worth the cost? Probably not. If I’m having a month when my hormones feel like they’re changing my biomechanics to the point where I need a whole different shoe on and off my period, then I’d rather spend the cash on yoga, to be honest.