Shopping for a new pair of running shoes can be quite the adventure. There are hundreds upon hundreds of bright and colourful, cushioned and stabilised, rubbery and shiny pairs to choose from. In most cases, specialist words and phrases are used to describe the shoe; things like gradient jacquared-mesh, adaptive fit, targeted technology and even made-up words like flytefoam. All of this jargon serves one purpose – to make the shoe sound technologically advanced and scientifically proven. But what does the actual published scientific literature say about these sort of shoes?
Super-charged shoe technology
boosts two million years of evolution
So what did they find?
Nothing. Not a single piece of original published research that looked at adult runners using cushioned shoes with pronation control and measuring the above outcomes could be found. The authors concluded that the prescription of this shoe type for distance runners is, in fact, not evidence-based. This sort of finding certainly raises questions about the popularity of the shiny, colourful cushioned shoes we see most runners in nowadays.
Have you ever had your foot assessed by a shoe salesperson? Perhaps they took a scan of the foot and/or examined your arch height?
A recently published study suggests that picking a shoe based on the way your arch looks really has no impact on injury outcomes. The 2014 study, published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, investigated injury rates resulting from shoes selected specifically for an individual’s arch height. US Army, Air Force and Marine Corps men and women undergoing basic training were assigned to either a control group who were given a standard stability shoe or to a group where their shoe was specifically chosen using individual arch heights. At the end of the follow-up, there were no differences in injury rates between the two groups, in men or women. Sure, these study participants weren’t exclusively running, but running does form the foundation for many of the tests and training activities these military recruits undergo.
If you’re intrigued about this disparity between science and what is sold, have a read of our previous article about the proven benefits of training with more than one shoe. Even better, join in on our monthly webinars where we discuss shoes, technique, physiology, nutrition and just about anything else to do with running!
Richards, C. E., Magin, P. J., & Callister, R. (2009). Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based?. British journal of sports medicine, 43(3), 159-162.
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.