I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of specific types of running shoes is less than ideal. My patients often ask me what types of running shoes are best for them. Or they might ask if they need a shoe with an arch support or one made for supinators. Since I need to better understand running shoes to offer this type of advice, a recent article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine intrigued me.
Researchers at University of Calgary reviewed the scientific literature on running shoes and running injuries over the last 40 years or so. The sought to determine what, if any, role that running shoes play in injuries.
Difficulty with a link between shoes and injury
One challenge lies in the fact that different studies define running injury differently. Is an injury defined as pain that requires a visit to a doctor or emergency room? Is it one that keeps a jogger from training for a period of time?
Also, runners have largely changed between the 1970s and today. In the past, most runners were male, thin and dedicated to the sport. Today, a slight majority of runners are female, and generally more people do it recreationally, often to lose weight or simply to complete a race.
Insoles and comfort
One study the authors reviewed found that a comfortable insole might play a role in injuries. 106 soldiers were tested. The soldiers in the test group were allowed to select any type of insole based on which one was most comfortable for them. Of the six types of insoles, five were selected fairly equally. The test soldiers who wore insoles comfortable for them had 53% fewer lower extremity injuries than did the control soldiers.
Many runners select different features of running shoes, such as medial support or motion control. Others might find different features more comfortable. Wearing the shoes that are more comfortable for you, with whatever material, elasticity or other features they have, might improve your performance and decrease your risk of injury.
Comfort filter paradigm
Based on their findings, the authors recommend that runners select shoes comfortable to them using their “comfort filters.”
Runners, do you agree? Would you rather wear a shoe based on comfort? Or do you wear one that is less comfortable but that fits your foot or stride best, according to shoe experts? Share your thoughts below!
Nigg BM, Baltich J, Hoerzer S, et al. Br J Sports Med. Published Online July 4, 2015.