Running shoes – are they really that important?
Running shoes can make a simple person go crazy. I went to buy some the other day, thinking it would be an easy task and, boy, was I wrong. First, they asked me if I was a pronator or supinator, I answered that I was more of terminator. Then they asked me about stability, I´ve always been afraid of that issue so I decided not to answer. After that scare, they put me on a treadmill and asked me to walk and run and when that was over they told me they had the perfect shoe for me, it was called the SUPERAXICS BALANCE NEUTRAL STABILITY POWER 1000 and it only costed 165€. I almost had a heart attack!!
Obviously, I exaggerated a little but I wanted to get the point across, buying running shoes can sometimes be a nightmare. But, does it have to be? Is pronation-supination really that important? Do you really have to buy expensive shoes to prevent an injury? What about those new stability shoes, do they really work? Let´s find out….
Running shoes were invented around 40-50 years ago, before that there were only normal shoes or something to cover your feet with and way before that we didn´t even have shoes, but we were still able to run. And that´s what the book Born to Run talks about. It says that we were meant to run barefoot and that the invention of the shoes has altered our footstrike. You see, when you run barefoot you land with the forefoot because if you landed with your heel it would hurt. However, when you run with running shoes you tend to land with the heel, that´s why running shoes tend to have a lot of cushion in the back. So now you see a lot of people running with these minimalist shoes, like the five fingers. And you may ask yourself what´s better? In my opinion, the best thing is to buy a normal shoe and alter your footstrike, meaning sometimes you land with the forefoot and sometimes with the barefoot. You see, in his book, Born to Run, the author states that humans were meant to run barefoot and I agree with that, but we were not meant to run MARATHONS or SEMI-MARATHONS. We ran to catch our food and that was it!! I know a lot of people who are running marathons and semi-marathons with minimalist shoes, heck I have a friend who just last month ran the MALAGA MARATHON in SANDALS, yes sandals (here is the picture to proof it). And he is perfectly fine, still runs with the sandals and loves them. He is also a trainer and a great physical therapist.
Still, I wouldn´t recommend people to run marathons with minimalistic shoes, 5-10km yes (that´s probably what we ran to catch our food), but 41km, hell no. And do minimalistic shoes prevent more injuries than ¨normal¨ running shoes? Well, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, they don´t (1). They found no difference in injury rates between runners who wore soft-soled shoes and those who wore firm-soled shoes. But, you can also read this the other way – RUNNING SHOES DO NOT PREVENT MORE INJURIES THAN MINIMALISTIC SHOES.
So with all this said, you can imagine that running shoes are really not that important and various studies have demonstrated that. For example, researchers have NOT found a strong link between pronation and injury, that is why stability shoes don´t seem to help people who have been diagnosed as ¨over pronators¨. Another paper in 2009 concluded that ¨prescribing cushioned, motion-controlled shoes to distance runners was not evidence-based (2).
So what do we do……. well, I guess each person is different and has to find their shoe in which they are comfortable. But the point I´m trying to get across, is that we really don´t need expensive shoes to run, heck, we don´t even need shoes to run.
(My friend Chema again, but this time WITHOUT SANDALS)
And I also wouldn´t bother too much about pronation, supination and stability, I don´t think the sandals my friend ran with had any of those features. So, until next time keep running!!!
I leave you with a nice article that talks about pronation and a video that talks about ¨Born to run¨.
Theisen D, Malisous L, Genin J, Delattre N. Influence of midsole hardness of standard cushioned shoes on running-related injury risk. Br J Sports Med.2013
Richards CE, Margin PJ, Callister R. Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based. Br J Sports Med.2009 Mar;43(3):159-62.