High Cushion, Stability, Neutral, Minimalist, Rocker-bottomed, Carbon-Plated, the list goes on and on. You may find yourself asking “What do these things mean?” and “Which shoe is right for me?"
Running shoe companies make claims that their shoes reduce impact on the foot, decrease pronation, or prevent injuries. However, shoe companies produce products and technologies faster than the research to back up such claims. Though the research is limited, here’s what has been found:
In a study in the military, those who chose the shoe insert that was most comfortable (instead of choosing a “stability” or “cushioning” insert based on their foot type) had 53% fewer injuries! (1)
A softer insole (the inner lining of the shoe that your foot touches) did reduce injury in military shoes (2), however midsole (the thick cushion just above the outsole) softness or hardness has shown no impact on running injury (3)
Having more than one pair of running shoes to rotate through may be protective against injury (4)
Nigg et al (5) suggest two ideas for shoe selection and injury prevention. First, the “Preferred Movement Pattern” which supports that no matter the shoe, the body will continue to move in the same “preferred” path of movement. They also suggest the “Comfort Filter” in which the runner selects a shoe based on personal preference and comfort, which automatically reduces injury.
>>> The short answer: the shoe that you feel the most comfortable in is the best for you!
What should I consider when selecting a new running shoe?
As stated before, comfort is key! Beyond that, check the drop of the shoe. Drop is the difference of sole thickness from the heel to the toe of the shoe. Drop can vary from zero drop up to 12 mm of drop. The main thing to consider is to not quickly change from a very high drop to a very low drop, or vice versa. Instead, if you want to transition to a shoe with a lower or higher drop, with more than 4mm difference, plan to do so gradually – such as from a 12 mm to an 8 or 10 mm and then to a 6mm. This will help prevent injury.
Ask the Professionals!
The best way to find the perfect running shoe for you, is to go to your local running shoe store. They are familiar with the current models from various brands and know the specifics of each shoe. They will assess your feet and movement patterns and take note of previous injuries to provide you the best options for your needs. They will usually have you try on a few choices, and from there you pick the pair
the feels the best on your foot (and matches your style!)
If running shoes can’t really reduce your injury risk, what can?
An assessment by a physical therapist who specializes in treating runners! A movement and gait analysis can reveal muscle weakness or tightness that may increase your risk for a running injury. By working with a physical therapist to address these through manual therapy, exercises, and stretches, you can prevent an injury before it happens, and become a stronger runner.
Other providers like sports dieticians, running coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, yoga instructors, and athletic trainers can also provide information to keep you running healthy. Fast Bananas is Dr. Kate’s new company that compiles information from a wealth of providers, all in one place. Check it out and join the newsletter today! Fastbananas.com
Mündermann A, Stefanyshyn DJ, Nigg BM. Relationship between footwear comfort of shoe inserts and anthropometric and sensory factors. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2001;33:1939–45.
Finestone A, Giladi M, Elad H, et al. Prevention of stress fractures using custom biomechanical shoe orthoses. Clin Orthop Relat Res 1999;360:182–90.
Theisen D, Malisoux L, Genin J, et al Influence of midsole hardness of standard cushioned shoes on running-related injury risk British Journal of Sports Medicine 2014;48:371-376.
Malisoux, L., Ramesh, J., Mann, R., Seil, R., Urhausen, A. and Theisen, D. (2015), Multiple shoe use and running injuries. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 25: 110-115. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12154
Nigg B, Baltich J, Hoerzer S, et al Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: ‘preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’ British Journal of Sports Medicine 2015;49:1290-1294.