RUNNING MYTH 3 – RUNNING SHOES! DOES MORE CUSHIONING MEAN MORE PROTECTION?

MYTH

Cushioned running shoes prevent injury by reducing impact force and shock to your joints.

REALITY

There is no scientific evidence to support the popular school of thought that more cushioning means more protection. The fact is that thick cushioned soles do not decrease the impact force our joints absorb when running.

ELABORATION

Our feet are quite clever dynamic structures that have adapted over thousands of years to tell us about the surface we are walking on and to absorb the weight of our bodies. Shoes were developed as an essential barrier from the natural elements and dangerous surfaces. But how far is too far?

Marketing

Running shoes were pretty basic up until the 1990’s when shoe companies began marketing advanced technological developments in shoe design – enter the cushioned heel and gel inserts, pronation control and arch supports. The only problem is that these “revolutionary designs” were based solely on theoretical beliefs as opposed to any clinically significant research. Running shoes became higher, thicker, bouncier and ultimately, much more expensive.

Of course, shoes have an important role to play in protecting our feet from sharp objects and a chilly breeze but do we really need all the excess bubble wrap we plaster all over them?

So what does that have to do with running injuries?

Many of us, including myself have grown up wearing big, bulky shoes. This overly complex and excessive protection has caused our feet to lose their intrinsic strength and acute sensation. In other words, our feet have become lazy, propped up by unnecessary material and unable to sense the ground through a thick rubber sole.

When we wear big bulky shoes with a thick cushioned sole, our lovely intelligent feet lose their natural ability to sense the ground beneath them. This results in a change to our natural running mechanics including:

  • Landing heavily on our heels
  • Increasing the impact force through our joints
  • Increasing the braking phase of our gait

This puts us more at risk of developing knee, hip and back injuries from running, not to mention decreasing our efficiency and performance.

vertical-ground-reaction-force-heel-striking2

IMPLEMENTATION

What to look for in a running shoe

  • Skin protection from the natural elements
  • Minimal interface between the foot and the ground
  • Low drop, simple, light, flexible and comfortable!

I would encourage you to check out the Running Clinic’s list of recommended shoes according to dynamism, flexibility and weight.

BOTTOM LINE

Our feet are more than capable to be the dynamic levers they were born to be! However, it is important to remember that the ideal running shoe is not in most cases, what our modern feet are used to. Refer back to MYTH 1 about mechanical stress and adaptation. If you are investing in a new pair of more minimalist shoes, make the change gradual to give your body time to adapt.

 

Stay tuned for #teamJina’s next post by @linaenglundpt this Thursday. Lina will be discussing running surfaces in more detail.

For more Physio related information, stay updated by following @jeanlewispt and @linaenglundpt

References:

  • “New Trends in the Prevention of Running Injuries” – Blaise Dubois BScPT
  • Image © Liebermann et al, Harvard University

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