The variability within each footwear brand is hard enough to get your head around, let alone the variability between each brand!
The 1970s saw the western world's first running boom and off the back of it, a multibillion dollar footwear industry. As we progressed into the 1980s (first time cushioned shoes were introduced) we have seen a constant rate of injuries in long distance runners with 50% of runners incurring an annual injury and 25% of runners injured at any time.
If we go back through history, the evolution of running shoes coincides with the increase of running injuries, which suggests that there is a relationship between the pair.
It can be argued that going back to a minimalist style running shoe is the solution to unstable ankles, tight hamstrings and sore arches. Why? The rise of minimalist running shoes is backed by the argument of better mechanical load distribution through the leg, which ultimately makes your bones and joints stronger.
That being said, there is still a significant lack of evidence that minimalist running shoes cause less injury. It is important to note, a lack of evidence does not suggest something isn’t true, we are just waiting on our science researcher friends to put the pieces together and confirm what the signs are suggesting.
So where does this leave us?
What we can probably conclude is that the perfect footwear for running and preventing injury does not exist!
It is yet another classic case of solutions that don't exist by simply throwing a band-aid over the problem or in this case a very expensive combination of materials around your feet.
So what can we do?
The evidence is compelling in support of the fact that corrective gait training significantly reduces injury rates. This 2018 study found a 62% reduction in injury rates of novice distance runners.
Additionally, the breakdown of mechanics is often attributed to the strength of an individual. We’re not talking about the “rip your shirt off, look how ripped I am” strength. We are talking about the ability to squat well, perform weighted single leg exercises well, do a chin up and push up, and more.
Being strong means you have the ability to recruit the relevant muscle to produce the relevant force. When an individual lacks the strength, a compensatory pattern is often the result. For example individuals that lack hip extensor strength (glute & hamstring) often transfer the load down or up the chain to the lower limb or lower back.
Another example is when the hip stabilisers lack strength causing a hip drop position in the stance leg (the leg on the ground) putting added forces through the knee and ankle. In fact, this pattern breakdown is one of the leading causes of injury when it comes to running!
Whilst we can conclude that the perfect running shoe is not out there - you definitely can do something about reducing the incidence of injury as a runner.
Learning correct mechanical running patterns and regular strength training (and doing it well) is the way we recommend going rather than forking out hundreds of dollars on a brand new pair of wheels.
For more details on this, we are hosting a Running Mechanics Workshop on Saturday 13th November. Unfortunately this event quickly sold-out due to popular demand however send an email to email@example.com if you would like to go on our waitlist. Please also feel free to contact us with any of your running questions as we'd love to help.