ARE YOU CHOOSING THE CORRECT TRAINERS FOR YOU?
Cushioned trainers have dominated the running shoe market for probably at least the last 30 years. These shoes come with a raised heel and, if we believe the makers, include some system or another to prevent over pronation. The makers also consistently claim that these shock-absorbing features minimize the impact of foot strike on the body and thus prevent lower leg injuries. Generally, this type of trainers is significantly higher at the heel than at the point of the toe.
However with the passing of the years, various studies have found that a high percentage of runners continue to get injured even in the most cushioned of trainers. It has been estimated that you between 30% and 75% of recreational runners tend to be injured once every year (van Mechelen and Van Gent et al), with the knee area (42%) being the most susceptible. Surprisingly, it is becoming increasingly evident that these trainers, rather than prevented injuries, may cause a large portion of them.
Nevertheless, runners are still being taken in by the shoe companies who continue to insist that extra cushioning or anti-pronation will mean fewer injuries. Because of this, most runners use traditional trainers in the belief that the extra cushioning can help them avoid injury by reducing the force of impact on the legs. Thus, brainwashed by the slogan of “extra cushioning, protection and fewer injuries”, runners continue to use extremely high-soled and high-priced shoes.
However, runners continue to get injured in high numbers giving lie to the mantra “extra cushioning, less injuries”. Although much repeated, few runners realise that there is little, or possibly no, scientific evidence to back up this claim. In fact, recent research points to the opposite. In particular there have been two really interesting studies related to running and training shoes that have come to conclusions that blow apart the traditional “more is better” marketing ploy.
In one of these (Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence based – Richards et al 2008), the investigators reviewed many databases of scientific research with a view to proving that greater shock absorption and/or anti pronation trainers would contribute to less injuries. However, they could find a single research study that demonstrated traditional trainers were useful in either preventing or even diminishing the occurrence of injuries in runners. In fact there was a suggestion that these trainers actually caused injuries.
The researchers concluded: “Biomechanical and epidemiological studies have raised significant questions about the capacity of running shoes incorporating either cushioning, heel elevation or sub-talarcontrol systems to prevent injury and have identified their potential to cause harm.”
A separate study by the University of Virginia looked at the incidence of injury in using minimalist shoes or indeed even barefoot. The research involved a survey of 500 runners who were running in shoes with reduced shock absorption or barefoot. The results were interesting in that they found 64% of the runners did not suffer any new injuries in the minimalist footwear or without any shoes whatsoever. In addition, 69% of the participants recovered from their previous injuries on going minimal.
Obviously if you have been using traditional trainers for some years, a change to minimalist shoes cannot be made overnight. A visit to a podiatrist may also be advisable before any dramatic change in case there may be a more serious underlying reason why you are getting injured more frequently than you would like. But it is worth thinking twice before shelling out well over £100 on a cushioned trainer when a more basic shoe at less than half the price might meet your needs. And it might keep you away from the dreaded physiotherapist’s table!