“What kind of running shoe should I wear?” is a reasonable question with the multitude of different types of running shoe on the market . Clients ask me this or similar questions on a regular basis in the clinic. The simple answer is the most comfortable ones. Let me explain why.
There are a huge range of different types of running shoe on the market in all shapes and sizes. At one end there is the completely minimalist vibram five fingers and at the opposite end the Hoka Clifton. On top of this you can throw in various motion control shoes, neutral shoes etc. All of this add up to making the simple act of picking a pair of running shoes a confusing challenge.
An important point to we must remember is where much of the general information comes from. Much of what we read about what shoes to wear comes from the shoe manufacturers themselves. Let us not forget that running shoe manufacturers are in the business of selling shoes. It is in the interests of the shoe makers to get you to buy new shoes. The idea that you need a specific type of shoe to help protect you from injury is strong but the evidence suggests the complete opposite.
What does the evidence tell us?
There have been a number of studies looking into the impact of different shoes on injury rates. Running shoes are sold on the idea that they can protect you from injury, reduce the amount of pronation you have etc. This big problem with this is that there is no evidence to support it. This is type of shoe prescription is all the more irrelevant given it is done with little or no investigation. A t best you will be assessed with a quick jog on a treadmill as a result the chances of a successful suggestion is low.
Running Shoe type
The study by Knapik et al in 2010 on how different running shoe types affected injury rates. Knapik assessed over 2000 US Air Force trainees in the study splitting them into two groups, experiment, and control. The experimental group was split into 3 different sub groups and given a shoe based on foot shape. The shoes were assigned as follows flat/pronated feet were given motion control shoes, normal/neutral feet were given stability shoes and those with a high arch/supinated feet were given neutral shoes. The recruits in the control group all wore stability shoes regardless of their foot shape. At the end of the study the data collected was then analysed and it was found that the type of shoe had no impact on the risk of injury.
In the study by Ryan 2010 which looked at three different shoes and their impact and the impact then assessed over a 13 week half marathon training program. The researchers assessed the participants for their foot type and then placed them into 3 groups. The groups were described as those with a neutral foot, pronated foot or highly prontated foot. The members of each group were then randomly assigned either a neutral shoe, stability shoe or a motion control shoe. The results of the study showed that motion control shoes aren’t really a good choice for anyone and that a highly pronated foot isn’t a big injury risk factor.
The stack height of a shoe is the difference between the height of the heel and the forefoot. Typically running shoes will have a stack height of around 10mm or more and more minimalist shoes between 0-10mm. In 2010 Malisoux looked at the impact of different stack heights in running shoes and the impact of these on injury rates. The ages of the runners was between 18 and 65 and had all been injury free for 12 months.
There were three shoes were used in the study, 10mm, 6mm or 0mm drop and the 577 runners. The runners were split into 3 roughly equal groups and each group assigned a shoe. In conclusion of the study the data then collated and assessed. Each group had an injury rate of ~25% and there was no impact from stack height.
What about running shoe comfort?
There have been quite a few studies that have looked into the effects of how comfortable shoes. All the studies point in the same direction and all suggest that wearing uncomfortable shoes has a negative impact.
IN his study in 2015 Benno Nigg found that runners move the best when wearing running shoes that are comfortable.Unsurprisingly when the runners wore shoes that were picked purely on comfort they moved better than when the shoe was selected due to a “need for a stability or other type of shoe.
In two seperate studies by Molloy, 2009, and Mundermann, 2001, looked into the effects of comfort on injury rates. Both of these studies found that runners tended to develop a compensatory gait and had reduced postural control and therefore concluded that there was a negative impact from uncomfortable shoes.
So how should you pick a shoe?
All the evidence points towards picking a shoe that you feel comfortable running in. The impact of shoe type shoe is small and has little or no impact on your chances of getting injured. You are far better trying on a variety of shoes until you find one that you feel really comfortable wearing as this will have a much more positive impact on your running.