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Ok my running Cinderellas, which shoe is right for you?

ASCIS, HOKA, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Reebok, Under Armor, Saucony, Brooks...and on and on. There are endless brands of running shoes and each brand has several versions and types of shoes for each "foot" and "running form." This leads to confusion and lots of questions.

Two of the most common questions I get:

  1. Which running shoe is best?

  2. Do you think my running shoes caused my pain?

Let's dive into those answers and more.

Running injury rates are some of the highest compared to other sports, especially for the novice runner. If I were to jump on my soapbox for a minute...I would correct you in saying "crossfit is dangerous". It's not. Studies show the prevalence of injury in Crossfit varies from 0.2-18.9 per 1000 training hours, which is comparable to other sports of its kind. Running sits much higher at 7.7-17.8 per 1000 hours. *Off soapbox. Now, am I saying that running is bad? Absolutely not. Am I saying that you should stop running? Um, no. Just like any sport, activity or physical task, a risk of injury accompanies it. Recent studies have actually showed that runners (recreational) have thicker cartilage and less arthritis compared to those who do not run. Hmmm...that doesn't fit the narrative that running is bad for your joints! But how you run, what shoes you wear and your accessory programs all can affect your injury rate.

Let's talk which running shoe is best. You will most often find 3-4 types of running shoes: neutral shoe, stability shoe, high arch support shoe and some weird one with lots of cushion or bubbles or weird squiggles on the sole. From there the shoes can also vary by degree of offset or heel to toe drop- you have a drop that varies from 0-8+mm. Most likely unless you are buying high dollar specific running shoes that specify a different drop- the drop is likely 10mm.

Most people think they need to go to a running store with a treadmill and an employee who watches them run and then tells them which shoes fits their run and foot type best. I believe there to be 2 problems with this. You run differently on a treadmill than you do on road, trails, hills, etc. Your running form can vary based on what shoes you are wearing at the time or if you are running barefoot. Your running form can even change based on what kind of music you are listening to!!!!

In 2015, a study was published in British Journal of Sports Medicine, that assessed runners injury rate based on 2 groups: those who had a shoe assigned to them by foot type vs those who chose their shoes on comfort. The runners who based their running shoe on comfort had a decreased frequency of running injuries. So what does this mean? If you don't have a history of running injuries, then find shoes that are comfortable to YOU. Yes, Karen down the street may love her Hokas and Bob may highly recommend Brooks, but find what your foot likes!

This can still feel like a daunting task but if you are just beginning or even a seasoned recreational runner, don't fret it. Try on several pairs, walk in them, run in them. Pay attention to the sole: is it neutral or is it a stability shoe (it will likely say on the box too). Is it too rigid? Is it too soft? I don't care what color it is, go for comfort!

What if you have a history of running related injuries? Does that mean you need a specific shoe? Not necessarily. If you have switched shoes and even been assessed at a running shop and you are still having pain, it is not your shoes. It is you. Get assessed by a PT who knows running and running form and can help break down your gait and correct it. Small changes add up. In one study, 2 weeks of gait retraining, resulted in 62% lower rate of running related injuries after 1 year!

Most runners, at some point will experience running pain usually in the lower extremity with knees and ankles being most common. When someone suddenly develops a new onset of pain several questions need to be answered:

  1. Have you recently increased your training volume? More miles or more days/week?

  2. Have you introduced new terrain? (i.e. from treadmill to hills, from road to trail)

  3. Have you recently been ill, stressed or had decreased amounts of sleep?

  4. How long have you had your current shoes?

Without diving into the other questions, there are several factors that cause pain. Usually it is not a single one but several adding up at once. For more reference, go check out my blog post "What's in your cup?". But since we are talking running shoes, let's talk how they can cause injury.

Running shoes need to be changed every 300-500 miles or sooner if you see visible breakdown and change in the sole of the shoe. How soon you reach that mile mark will vary from runner to runner but you should have a general idea of your weekly mileage and you can do some math to get there. If you don't have any idea of your weekly mileage, start keeping track not just for the sake of your shoes but you also need to know for when you are increasing your training if you are progressing too fast.

If you recently got a new pair of shoes and suddenly developed pain when running then it is possible your shoes are to blame. If the shoes are the same model or very similar, then I would suggest not switching directly to your new shoes for longer runs. Stay with 1-2 miles on the new shoes and gradually break them in. If 1-2 miles is what your runs max out on, then consider every other run in your new shoes or throw in some walks.

If your shoes are something completely different, you can still attempt to work them into your routine. Remember, comfort over foot type (though this doesn't not blindly apply). You may have bought a shoe that has a sudden heel drop. You shoes could have been 10mm and these may be 4mm. It doesn't mean, throw them away but you may have to ease into them over a few weeks. There also comes a time where some shoes just aren't right for you and you may have bought a pair that your body disagrees with.

My recommendation is that once you find a pair of shoes you like that fits you best, stick with it. You may have to search outlets and online to continue to find that model. Good news is as long as they keep making that shoe they will change the colors and the look so if you care about the fashion aspect, you can still usually find a different look of the same shoe!

As always, as is life, there are many factors that play into injuries and running. If you still feel overwhelmed with pain and injury with running, reach out to Body Fix 180 where we can assess your running form, break down your training program and make sure you don't have muscle imbalances/weakness contributing to your pain!


Nigg BM et al. BJSM 2015

Chan et al. AJSM 2018

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