What’s best for our feet? On last count I could list over one hundred types of running shoes off the top of my head. You can walk into any specialist shoe or sport store and be inundated with information by a salespersons about either the newest minimalistic shoe which in fact doesn’t feel like a shoe at all, or the more traditional stability shoe which is fixing all knee and foot injuries and the technology involved has been adapted from the last space mission. It is leaving the average runner confused and lost, and the podiatrist busily busting a gut to keep up with all the new technologies and claims, when all we want to do it run.
Barefoot vs. traditional footwear is only the tip of the iceberg when it come’s time to make a decision on your shoes. The next decision to make is whether you need pronation control or cushioned shoes; by this stage you are ready to give up running and purchase a pair of goggles.
To make some sense of what we should be wearing a fantastic comparison of stability running shoes and running barefoot by Kerrigan et al showed hip and knee joint stress levels decreased when running barefoot, great, doesn’t this mean to avoid all hip and knee injuries we all need to be barefoot? To me it begs the question where does all this stress go? It has been shown that the stress relieved from barefoot running goes directly to the feet. So if we all take up barefoot running we might all be walking around with sore feet.
More good news is that controlling pronation, unless advised otherwise may not be something you even need to consider. That dirty word of pronation is not as dirty as we first thought; some of us even embrace and encourage it.
Ultimately footwear should be guided by two things: comfort and variety. We can also use the research to guide prescription, for instance, it would be unusual to encourage someone with a prior history of foot injury to only use minimalistic footwear, alternatively it may be a consideration to wear a more minimalistic shoe if there is a history of knee and hip problems. There has been multiple studies which have found that foot wear choices should be made purely on comfort and immediate feel, anecdotally there is a lot of satisfaction associated with a more comfortable shoe, which may result in better performance and injury prevention. Like anything though, variety in footwear, with the incorporation of minimalistic and more traditional footwear ensures stresses upon the structures of the body are spread and not localised to one area, ultimately reducing the risk of any injury.
The Effect of Running Shoes on Lower Extremity Joint Torques, Kerrigan et al 2009.