Does Running Footwear really Matter?

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Does Running Footwear really Matter?

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Yes, yes, and yes. Footwear can drastically change the way people run, for better or for worse. This week, we will explore different styles of shoes and their effect on running mechanics, as well as which shoe you should choose to run in.

Running shoes have very different styles, all the way from padded running “socks” to maximally cushioned shoes with inches of cushioning, and everywhere in between. How does one choose between these, and which shoe is best for each person. In short, shoe style is not the single most important factor regarding running; however, it plays a very important role on running mechanics and injury prevention.

In general, lighter shoes (minimalist), with less padding, more flexibility, will cause the foot to be more mobile and cause running primarily to the forefoot, or the ball of the foot. Maximalist shoes that are generally heavier, carry more cushioning, and are more stiff, will cause the foot to be more stable; while landing more on the heel. There are also more traditional running shoes which offer moderately cushioned shoes with more of a neutral support, which is in between these previously mentioned ends of the spectrum.  There are advantages, and disadvantages to both types of shoe.

Benefits of minimalist footwear:

  • Increased cadence
  • Decreased loading stresses on the knee and hip joints
  • Lighter shoes typically = faster running

Drawbacks of minimalist footwear:

  • Increased loading on the calf musculature
  • Less motion control mechanisms for the unstable foot

Benefits of maximalist footwear:

  • Decreased stress on bones in the foot
  • Improved stability for the Hypermobile foot

Drawbacks of Maximalist footwear:

  • Increased stress to the knee joint depending on running mechanics
  • Heavier shoe typically = slower running speed.

However, what matters most is that each individual gets the shoe they need to fit their own foot. People with flat feet, and have no arch when they stand may benefit from a more stable shoe that controls their motion when they run. Often times, these types of runners will hear things such as they “overpronate” when examined by a movement specialist, such as a PT. Things to look for in this shoe are a stiff heel counter, straight lasts (the curvature of the sole of the shoe), and good arch support. People who have higher arches may benefit from a more mobile shoe, which allows more natural motion to occur in the foot during running. Things to look for in this type of shoe are flexible curved lasts, and moderate motion control features such as a mobile soft heel, and form fitting upper. Remember it is always best to have a movement specialist such as a Physical Therapist evaluate your foot style walking mechanics. A great place to go for your next pair of running shoes is Varsity sports, who do an excellent job helping those who are looking for a shoe that will fit them.

Shea Rogers, PT, DPT