Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Do Your Running Shoes Prevent Injuries?

How do you choose your running shoes? I've been asked that question many times over. I've even compiled a shoe list regularly over the years since the 90's and yes many other physios, health professionals etc have conveniently/ blantantly taken out my name and passed the list off as their own (picture below).

One of my often copied shoe lis
For years, podiatrists, coaches and shoe salesmen etc have looked at your foot type (to see if you have a normal, low or high arches) and then recommended that you have stability, motion control and cushioned shoes respectively. The rationale being that if you had high arches, you did not pronate enough and needed softer, well cushioned shoes while if you had low arches, you tend to overpronate and needed sturdy motion control shoes to control that overpronation. Runners with normal arches needed neutral shoes and were prescribed stability shoes. This method was deeply rooted in athletic circles and widely accepted.

The above mentioned method was exactly what the US military did in terms in handing out shoes to their recruits as injuries were rampant during basic military training. Military authorities hoped that injury rates will drop by ensuring their recruits were fitted with the correct shoes according to their foot type.In order to determine whether fitting correct shoes help in lowering injury rates, military researchers found no scientific literature in support of what they were doing and decided to do their own research.

And you know what, they found almost no correlation at all between wearing proper running shoes and avoiding injuries (this is published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine recently). Injury rates were actually highest amongst soldiers who had received shoes fitted according to their foot types. Wearing the so called "correct" shoes for their type of feet had actually increased the recruits' chances of getting injured.

If you have been following our blog, you would have read that Sports Solutions first wrote about this last year when researchers in another published article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that sports medicine specialists should stop recommending running shoes based on a person's foot type as there was no evidence supporting it. Please have a look at one of our our more popular post last year

And just in case you decided that published studies on military recruits were of a lower quality, another study done on experienced runners was published more recently in support of the military subjects paper. In this study, 81 runners were classified according to their foot postures (a more detailed measure of foot type than just arch shape). Runners in each category were then randomly assigned one of 3 footwear conditions, neutral (Nike Pegasus), stability (Nike Structure Triax) and motion control (Nike Nucleus).

All the women embarked on a 13 week half marathon training program. How did they fare? Nearly a third of the women had to miss some training days because of pain, with a majority of the injured runners wearing (yes you guessed correctly) shoes specifically designed for their foot postures. What's more, also of note was that motion control shoes were the shoes across the board that "caused" the most injuries.

Now in theory, overpronators should benefit from motion control shoes to limit their overpronation. However, these runners who overpronated actually complained of pain and missed training after wearing them as did a number of runners with normal feet and every single underpronating (or high arched) runner randomly assigned to a pair of motion control shoes.

This is despite that fact that motion control shoes do limit over pronation as numerous biomechanical studies of runners running on treadmills have repeatedly proved that runners who wear motion control shoes have significantly reduced pronation.

There you go, not quite what you may expect I imagine. Please email this to your friends who are planning to invest in new running shoes.

I have all 3 articles, email me if you want a copy.


Knapik JJ, Trone DW, Swedler DI et al (2010). Injury Reduction Effectiveness Of Assigning Running Shoes Based On Plantar Shape In Marine Corps Basic Training. AJSM published online before print June 24, 2010.

Richards CE, Magnin, PJ and Callister R (2009). Is Your Prescription Of Distance Running Shoes Evidenced Based. BJSM. 43(3) : 159-162.

Ryan MB, Valiant GA, McDonald K et al (2011). The Effect Of Footwear Stability Levels On Pain Outcomes In Women Runners: A Randomised Control Trial. BJSM. 45:715-721. DOI:10.1136/bjsm.2009.069849.


  1. I recently read Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. It's an excellent book which you may wanna check out. He makes a case for running barefoot and also talks about how all these high-tech shoes that supposedly provide "stability", "motion-control" blah blah, actually lead to more injuries than not. What do you think about running barefoot or using "barefoot" shoes such as Vibram Five Fingers and Nike Free?

  2. I have the book too (http://weloverunning.blogspot.com/2009/12/more-presents.html), a patient gave that to me.

    More evidence is increasing that we humans are made to run long distances, (and to even run barefoot) but realistically most people will not be able to run barefoot.

    So I tell my patients to find the thinnest (or minimalist racers as we call them) shoe they can handle and still run comfortably. i.e. as though they are running barefoot while wearing shoes.

  3. Yes my running shoes do prevent injuries. They are very comfortable and Light weight too.

  4. Hi,It has been some time since I visited website with such high quality information. Thank you so much for providing such helpful information. This is really informative and I will for sure refer my friends the same. Thanks for sharing.