Choosing the Right Running Shoe
Choosing the Right Running Shoe
There are numerous choices one has to make when purchasing a running shoe. From more basic things like heft/weight, aesthetics, and stability/neutral/motion-control to more nuanced choices like materials of the sole, foot-bed, and upper it can become a complicated choice.
The running shoe manufacturers spend significant amounts of money trying to develop a better shoe in all definitions of the word: better performance, better injury prevention, and better cost. I believe they do this all with good intent. But here is the secret: when it comes to choosing the best shoe for you, none of the above matters.
Yes, that statement was made to get your attention, and there are some small studies that have shown there can be some influence of shoes on injuries, but these are small and/or poorly designed and their conclusions do not hold water (very well…yet)1-4. (Author’s note: if you are interested in honest & rigorous evaluations of all running-related research, please frequent runresearchjunkie.com).
However, there is one particular factor that can and does influence your rate of injury, and therefore something critical to remember when buying a running shoe: comfort5. That’s right, if a running shoe is comfortable it has a significant effect on your rate of running injury. Multiple studies that have looked at the usage of different shoe-types, orthotics, and the subjects’ personal preference (based upon comfort and innate running gait) and they have concluded that the best indicator of fit and injury prevention is the simplest, over-looked answer of comfort. The current thought process is that our brain (via the nerves/nerve endings in our feet and lower extremities) can sense when a shoe allows for us to run with our most natural and most efficient gait (termed “preferred movement path”). Researchers are calling this innate sense of best-fit our “comfort filter”. While there is work to do on this front, the literature supports this method over any other to choose a running shoe. In support of this concept, research presented at recent conferences suggest that individual differences (among runners) are critical. This bears on the effect of the drop of the shoe, the ‘heft’ of the shoe (minimal vs maximal)6,7.
It would be wonderful if we had a standardized, objective, and validated method for measuring critical components of gait, foot anthropometrics (length, width, arch height, etc.), and training regimens which would delineate what shoe to use. But at this time we do not. However, one can make the argument that the best possible tool for assessing this is our very powerful nervous system and that the “comfort filter” is a more specific, individualized, and powerful tool than scientists could build.
So, as you choose your next running shoe, please go to the store and actually try them. Run a bit on the treadmill. Then try 3 or 4 more pairs and take home the one that feels the best.
- Malisoux, L., Chambon, N., Delattre, N., Guéguen, N., Urhausen, A., & Theisen, D. (2015). The effectiveness of motion control systems in preventing running-related injuries. Footwear Science, 7(sup1), S86-S87.
- Kaplan, Y. (2014). Barefoot versus shoe running: from the past to the present.The Physician and sportsmedicine, 42(1), 30-35.
- Theisen, D., Malisoux, L., Genin, J., Delattre, N., Seil, R., & Urhausen, A. (2013). Influence of midsole hardness of standard cushioned shoes on running-related injury risk. British journal of sports medicine, bjsports-2013.
- Knapik, J. J., Trone, D. W., Tchandja, J., & Jones, B. H. (2014). Injury-Reduction Effectiveness of Prescribing Running Shoes on the Basis of Foot Arch Height: Summary of Military Investigations. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 44(10), 805-812.
- 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’. British journal of sports medicine, bjsports-2015.
- Grier, T., Canham-Chervak, M., Bushman, T. T., Anderson, M., North, W., & Jones, B. H. (2013, May). Injury risk and performance among soldiers wearing minimalist running shoes compared to traditional running shoes. InMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (Vol. 45, No. 5, pp. 63-63). 530 WALNUT ST, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106-3621 USA: LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS.
- Warr, B. J., Fellin, R. E., Frykman, P. N., Sauer, S. G., Goss, D. L., & Seay, J. F. (2014, May). Footstrike Patterns do not Influence Running Related Overuse Injuries in US Army Soldiers. In MEDICINE AND SCIENCE IN SPORTS AND EXERCISE (Vol. 46, No. 5, pp. 812-812). 530 WALNUT ST, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106-3621 USA: LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS.