Many runners believe that wearing the wrong shoe type for the foot is a leading cause of running related injuries.1 This belief stems from traditional shoe prescription methods where running shoes are prescribed on the basis of matching shoe features to foot type e.g. motion controlled shoes to pronated feet.
Unfortunately there is a lack of conclusive evidence to support such beliefs.2
There are currently five high quality research studies, which demonstrate that traditional shoe prescription does not prevent running related injuries in groups of novice runners3, female runners4 or in military training populations.5–7 However a recent study has challenged these findings. In a group of recreational runners who were prescribed either a motion control or neutral shoe and followed for six months, a motion control shoe provided some protection against injury in runners with a pronated foot type.8
With such conflicting findings, further high quality research is required to determine the most effective shoe prescription system.9 In the meantime runners should understand that while other shoe prescription paradigms e.g. minimalist or maximalist shoes, are often suggested, there is no conclusive evidence that any shoe, regardless of type, is effective at reducing risk of sustaining a running related injury. Of greater importance is the implementation of appropriate training strategies, which have been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of injuries in runners (see below).
Important points to consider when purchasing a new pair of runners:
- Ensure the runners you select fit well and are comfortable to run in.2
- Avoid making rapid changes to the type of shoe you have become accustomed to running in. For example changing straight to a minimalist shoe from a heavier motion control shoe. Instead make a gradual transition over several months.10
- When improved running performance is a priority, select a lighter shoe model.11
- Consider rotating between two or more pairs of runners for training. This has been shown to have a small protective effect against injury.12
To reduce your risk of sustaining a running related injury, consider implementing the following strategies into your training routine:
Careful management of training loads is important to reduce injury risk.13 Avoid progressing your total running load (e.g. distance, time, or intensity) by more than 5-10% each week to ensure your body has time to adapt to the training stimulus, and the risk of tissue overload is minimised.13 Wearable technology such as GPS monitors or using the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) to measure training intensity, can assist in monitoring training loads. However, research has not yet determined what is the most important training metric e.g., duration, intensity, etc., when it comes to reducing risk of running related injury.
Completing a strength training program consistently 2-3 times per week for longer than 6 weeks has also been shown to reduce risk of overuse injuries in running populations14 and improve running performance.15 For further information on strength training for runners click here to read a recent blog on this topic.
Ensuring you are getting enough sleep i.e. 7-9 hours or more each night, is also important. For instance, adequate sleep may reduce the risk of stress fractures in running populations.16 Getting more sleep has proven beneficial effects on performance and recovery.17
Emerging evidence also suggests that improving running biomechanics through specific coaching of technique may lower the risk of sustaining a running related injury, in addition to reducing loading rates18, however further research is required in this area.
It is important to remember that the information provided above, although evidence based, is general in nature. Runners should consult a health professional who has experience working with runners for advice on reducing injury risk specific to their individual circumstances.