Choosing Running Shoes

Whenever people pick up a new sport, whether it be cycling or running or anything else, they quickly ask themselves what type of gear they need. For cycling you need a bike. For running you need running shoes. Choosing the right shoe should not be complicated. Shoe recommendations based on arch height and pronation has been tested in research studies. It has not shown much clinical success.

Let’s look at arch height first. Feet are traditionally divided into a low or a high arch and normal feet. This is simply a distinction between how high the curve of your foot is in relation to the ground. The low arched feet were prescribed motion control shoes. The normal feet were prescribed stability shoes. High arched feet were prescribed a neutral shoe. Studies concluded that this method of shoe selection did not reduce injury risk, or could even increase risk, as compared to people who were assigned shoes randomly.

Pronation is an inward rolling of the foot and ankle. This is a natural movement of the foot that enables movement like walking. There is no standard that tells you when you are overpronating (too much inward rolling) and are risking injury. It is also difficult to measure this when you are wearing a shoe. The foot can move inside the shoe. This can not be readily observed from the outside. It becomes difficult to tell how far you are pronating. Wrongly attributing overpronation as the cause for injury can lead to more injury. In other words, you weren’t overpronating but you got a corrective device anyway and it is now hindering the natural movement of your feet. Studies are conflicting and there is little evidence that links overpronation to injury. Some even suggest that overpronation is protecting you from injury.

So what can be done? First of all, start from proper running technique and strong feet. Strengthen your feet so they can do the job of supporting your body. Practice running technique so that you are moving in a way that is in line with the way the human body is built. This alone will reduce your chance of injury a lot. But what about shoes? Their primary function should be to protect the feet from harm, like cuts, and not try to assist you in running. Stronger feet can get away with less. Less shoe will allow for better technique. Build your way up to a minimal, zero-drop (there is no incline from toes to heel) shoe. These are flexible and thin enough to allow your feet to do all the things they should be doing: flexing and sensing the surface to create a strong base to support your body.