Three Myths about Running Shoes

As PTs we are often asked to recommend running shoes for patients. So before you go to the running store, consider this:

Myth #1: Preventing injury is a matter of finding the right shoe. There is no shoe that magically prevents injury. And no one shoe is great for everyone. So at the running store, run long enough to get a good feel for how the shoes work for you before you buy them.

Myth #2: Shop for shoes based on your foot type. Most running stores will tell people who pronate that they need a motion control shoe. They will tell people with high arches they need more cushioning in their shoe. Three large studies showed that matching footwear to foot type did nothing to prevent injuries. So while you might be steered in one direction based on your foot type, it’s more important to find shoes that fit well and feel  good.

Myth #3: Running shoes decrease running efficiency. Shoes add weight to your feet, and adding weight demands energy. But when CU researcher, Rodger Kram, evaluated running efficiency of experienced barefoot runners running in lightweight shoes vs. unshod, he found running barefoot increased energy consumption 4% with each step. The research team surmised that shoes provide a degree of cushioning, and without shoes, leg muscles contract to create the same cushioning effect; so the metabolic cost of the activity goes up.

When you pick a running shoe:

  • Make sure you have your foot measured (sizes vary from those of street shoes).
  • Go in the afternoon when you feet are likely bigger.
  • Wear the socks you use to run when you try on shoes.
  • Be open to trying different shoe styles to see what feels best.
  • Don’t be overly impressed with the bells and whistles of the most expensive shoes in the store – they won’t necessarily make running easier or better.

And if you decide you want to switch from a motion control shoe to a minimal shoe, take it slow. Successful transition requires preparation with strengthening, a change in your running form, and a very gradual transition, over weeks or months. A run analysis would also be a good idea. Stay tuned – we’ll be talking about a run analysis in a spring newsletter.

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