Archive for the tag - running shoes

Specialized Running Shoes Don’t Reduce Injury Risk.

Screen-shot-2010-09-01-at-3.52.49-PMIf you’ve ever been to a running store, you’ve probably noticed an extensive selection of specialized shoes. The salespeople are often trained to examine your foot type, and then make recommendations based on your arch. There are shoes for high, low or normal arches with specialized midsoles and cushions; the idea is that these arch-specific shoes reduce the injury risk of the runners who wear them.

But is this true?

It’s a question that the U.S. military asked before investing in arch-specific shoes for their soldiers.

In a subsequent study involving male and female marine recruits, researchers divided participants into two groups. In the first group, marines were given shoes specific to their arch type. In the second group, marines were given a stability shoe regardless of their arch type. The study controlled for other known injury risk factors including smoking, prior fitness level, etc.

After crunching the data, researchers discovered that there was little difference in injury risk. And in other related studies on the same subject, researchers actually found a slightly elevated risk of injury in arch-specific running shoes.

Instead of listening to salespeople or buying into marketing hype, experts agree that the best way to find a running shoe is to try it on and take it for a spin. If there is pain or discomfort, try a different shoe. If it feels right, trust your body and buy it.

 

Barefoot Running Benefits.

Barefoot running has developed something of a cult following – and, admittedly, I’m starting to drink the Kool-Aid. You might even say that it’s a movement.

Think about it: Our feet are the result of millions of years of evolution and designed to safely and efficiently transport our bodies over a variety of surfaces at varying speeds. Running shoes, on the other hand, have only been around for a few decades. Maybe there’s something to be said for being barefoot.

I’m a big fan of data, but there hasn’t been much research on running barefoot versus running with shoes. And so, I was excited to discover a new study about barefoot running by researchers at Northumbria University.

The study followed a mix of recreational and trained runners who completed a variety of runs in both shoes and barefoot on separate days. The study concluded that newly barefoot runners immediately alter their gait to that of habitual barefoot runners – and strike the ground with lower impact forces and loading rates than runners who use shoes. The altered gait is both safer and more comfortable.

Moreover, barefoot runners used an average of 6% less oxygen. In other words, their running became 6% more efficient. This could be for a number of reasons – not the least of which may be the added weight of sneakers. According to research, there’s about a 1% increase in energy demand for every 100 grams of additional footwear mass.

A mere 6% might not sound like much – but when you look at Olympic events, for example, you quickly realize that every hundredth of a second counts. Even a little added efficiency can make a huge difference for athletes performing at this level.

While the increases in efficiency and decreases in injury risk associated with barefoot running may seem small and inconsequential for most recreational runners, I’d recommend giving it a try. If you’re interested, the Nike Free Run (read my review) is a great transitional sneaker. It’s the sneaker that I use, and I’m in love with its flexibility.

And beyond the potential benefits, there’s something very freeing, natural and almost romantic about running barefoot and feeling the earth beneath your feet. That is, until you step on a piece of glass.

In the comments below, let me know if you’re a fan of barefoot running – or if you’re curious to give it a try.