The options for running shoes are endless, which can make finding the right fit seem like a hard task. However, the path to finding the right running shoes may be more obvious than it appears: a scientific review suggests that whether or not a shoe is comfortable may be the most important factor when it comes to reducing the risk of running-related injuries. The review was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and was reported on by the New York Times; it looked at data from decades’ worth of studies on running-related injuries, shoes, and the relationship between the two. The review zeroed in on popular shoes meant to reduce injury, such as minimalist shoes that claim to soften the impact of hitting the ground and shoes with extra support for people whose feet over-pronate (their feet roll inward and downward when landing). Here's what the researchers discovered:
- Comfort is the key to preventing injury. A study including 206 military recruits asked certain participants to pick and wear one of six shoe inserts that felt the most comfortable, while other participants didn't wear an insert. After four months, participants wearing an insert had less pain and fewer stress fractures than those not wearing an insert.
- Pronation may not lead to more injuries. Another study gave 927 novice runners the same shoes to wear while running. After one year, there were fewer injuries in runners whose feet over-pronated than in those whose feet didn't over-pronate.
- Shoes that “fix” form may not prevent injuries. Another series of studies assigned a group of military recruits to wear running shoes based on the height of their foot arch, while another group of recruits wore running shoes designed for a foot with a medium-height arch, regardless of their actual arch height. When injury rates were compared, there were no differences between the groups.
- Impact may not injure. This review found little evidence that pounding the pavement can cause injuries, or that changing or removing shoes alters impact.
The researchers conducting the review concluded that runners should choose a shoe that feels good to help reduce the risk of injury. They advise that the next time you’re shoe shopping, take four or five pairs out for a jog around the block and buy the most comfortable pair.
Source: New York Times