Posted in Team Finish Line.
A New Way to Pick Your Running Shoe
The change in running shoes over the years has been astounding. Just 60-80 years ago, people used to run in shoes that look like something my grandma would wear with her Sunday best. Hard sole, tough leather upper, and really no regard for how the foot moves inside the shoe. Now you can’t turn on the TV without seeing the latest “breakthrough” in shoe technology which is going to save your legs and turn you into an elite athlete…sigh. What’s really interesting, is that to the best of our recorded knowledge, running injury rates have stayed relatively consistent over this period of time. Meaning all the design effort that has gone into running shoes isn’t in fact making a huge difference (2).
The current view in modern sports medicine, is that there are two types of feet: supinated (high arched) and pronated (flat). High arches cause a relatively more rigid foot, and thus a more cushioned shoe/insole has been prescribed. Flat feet result in a less stable foot, and thus a stability/motion control shoe or orthotic has been prescribed. However, little evidence supports the conclusion that increased impact from a rigid foot, or pronation from a flat foot increases injury rate. Basically, unless you are already injured, there is no need to try and correct the way your foot moves, because injury rates are relatively equal throughout all types of feet (1,2).
Furthermore, recent research shows that different types of shoes do not actually influence the path of movement of your foot, only the amount of movement. Essentially, your foot will still find a way to move like it always has, it will just have a tougher time doing that (meaning more muscle activity, and harder work overall) (1,3).
In light of these findings, more researchers have recommended selecting shoes based on comfort (1,2,3). The theory is that the more comfortable the shoe, the more it allows your foot to move in its preferred path, requiring less overall work from the lower legs. One study out of the army allowed a group of cadets to choose from 6 different insoles based on comfort level alone and compared them to a group of cadets using no insole. The results were a 53% lower injury occurrence in the group that was allowed to choose insoles based on comfort (2).
So how do you choose a running shoe then? Based on the current literature, if you are someone who is relatively symptom free, the best idea is to find a shoe that YOU find the most comfortable. Go to a local running store, and try out as many brands/types as you can, run on the treadmill with them, and determine for yourself which shoe FEELS like it is allowing your foot to move the most naturally. Never buy a shoe without trying it on, and never buy shoes online.
We asked our community partners at Brooklyn Running Company how they go about fitting a client with a shoe to make sure it’s the best fit. Wil Cremer of BKRC shares “…we advocate a collaborative fit experience for customers, as opposed to a prescriptive one. I never want to hear a customer say that we “put them” in a shoe. Our role as fitters is to educate our customers on the specific functions of different footwear design elements and to help guide them to make the best choice as an individual. And, of course, we always make sure that the shoe fits the foot appropriately. Suggesting the right shape and size is often more important than the structure of the shoe in warding off any potential injuries.
We are also seeing many of our vendors shift their categorization of footwear away from a function-based structure and toward and experiential structure. Brooks, for example, now categorizes shoes primarily based on how the cushioning feels (“Float” vs. “Feel”) and then, secondarily, by how stiff or supportive the shoe is.”
If you do have a lingering foot injury from running or any other sport, go see your Physical Therapist or Podiatrist to discuss the best ways to fix your movement problems before immediately turning to orthotics, as there are a host of reasons why foot problems occur that have nothing to do with shoewear or orthotics!
- M., Nurse, M. A., Nigg, B.M. & Stefanyshyn, D. J. (1999). Shoe inserts and orthotics for sport and physical activities. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 31, S421-S428.
- Nigg, B. M., Baltich, J., Hoerzer, S., & Enders, H. (2015). Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms:‘preferred movement path’and ‘comfort filter’. Br J Sports Med, bjsports-2015.
- Nawoczenski, D. A., & Ludewig, P. M. (1999). Electromyographic effects of foot orthotics on selected lower extremity muscles during running. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 80(5), 540-544.