Picking the right running shoe: The one factor that matters most
Research reviewed: Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: ‘preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’ (Nigg et al; BJSM, 2015)
This week’s research paper examined the relationship between running shoes and risks of injury, including typically used running shoe variables such as shoe cushion and “pronation control”.
The researchers reviewed key papers on the two most commonly studied variables that have been thought to be associated with risk of developing running injuries: foot pronation (think: the foot going flat) and impact forces during heel-toe landing.
They further went on to examine studies assessing shoe comfort and injury risk, amongst other factors.
The results and takeaways
In both cases, no association between foot pronation or impact forces and running injuries was found. Interestingly, they actually found that a slightly pronated foot position actually leads to less injuries which makes sense if you understand that the goal of pronation is to absorb force during the stance phase of running.
Further, the researchers looked at studies which examined how changes in shoe wear actually impacted movement. These studies found that changes in shoes resulted primarily in changing range of motion but had little effect on the overall movement mechanics (termed the “preferred movement path” by these researchers).
Lastly, the researchers found that shoe comfort was both positively related to decreased injury risk and increased running performance. In other words, shoe comfort may be the critical factor in choosing running shoes.
To that point, my recommendation is to always buy running shoes from a retailer with a 60-90 return policy so you can assess comfort of the shoe over time and mileage prior to finalizing the purchase.