It can become very overwhelming when you go into a shoe store and are confronted by a wall of shoes all claiming that they have the latest technology available, phrases like “motion control,” “stability,” or “minimalist,” make it very difficult to know where to start.
This is an excellent video from the checkout on selecting a shoe.
I will try and summarise the points I consider when trying to pick a new running shoe and the certain structural features that I look for in a shoe.
The questions important when considering a new running shoe are:
- Does the alignment and function of my foot increase the risk for developing an injury?
- Will all the different technology marketed in shoes help with the alignment and function of my foot and will this reduce the risk for injury?
- How can I pick out a good shoe for me?
Does alignment and function of my foot increase the risk for developing an injury?
The jury is still out – two recent systematic reviews concluded that from all the studies there was a small correlation between the risk for developing shin splints and having a flat foot and Achilles tendinopathy and greater pressure on the outside of the forefoot (Although the studies included in the review were of poor methodological quality) (1, 2).
Theoretically it makes sense that the ideal foot would be a neutral foot and that those with a more pronated (flatter foot) or supinated foot (high arched) would be more at risk for certain injuries.
BUT THERE IS NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO MAKE THIS CONCLUSION.
Will all the different technology in a shoe help with the alignment and function of the foot and will this reduce the risk of injury?
The first area to consider is the point mentioned previously that there is little evidence that having a certain foot alignment increases the risk for injury.
The second point to consider is that it is very difficult to tell how a shoe impacts on how the foot is aligned and functions when walking, this is because:
- Standing (static) measures of foot alignment do not correlate well to how the foot works when walking (3).
- The foot moves in the shoe itself. So from the outside of the shoe the foot and ankle may look perfectly aligned by this may not reflect what is happening inside the shoe.
Aside from alignment of the foot, another aspect is cushioning. One study investigated the cushioning properties of a shoe and determined that there was no correlation between shoe cushioning and injury rate (4).
How can I pick out a good shoe for me?
There are three categories that people generally fall into
Category 1: Those who are new at running
– Generally speaking the shoe that feels the most comfortable when you try it on is the best for you.
– Personally I prefer a shoe that is not too flexible although this is not evidenced based I recommend a shoe that you cannot bend in half.
Category 2: Those who are experienced at running at that do not have any injury
– If you have not had an injury in the shoes that you have been wearing then keep running in this type of shoe.
Category 3: Those who have an injury or painful foot.
– It depends on the injury present and it is best to see a specialist to determine the best properties of a shoe for your foot.
- Dowling GJ, Murley GS, Munteanu SE, Smith MMF, Neal BS, Griffiths IB, et al. Dynamic foot function as a risk factor for lower limb overuse injury: a systematic review. J Foot Ankle Res. 2014;7:53.
- Neal BS, Griffiths IB, Dowling GJ, Murley GS, Munteanu SE, Franettovich Smith MM, et al. Foot posture as a risk factor for lower limb overuse injury: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Foot Ankle Res. 2014;7:55.
- Buldt AK, Murley GS, Levinger P, Menz HB, Nester CJ, Landorf KB. Are clinical measures of foot posture and mobility associated with foot kinematics when walking? J Foot Ankle Res. 2015;8.
- Theisen D, Malisoux L, Genin J, Delattre N, Seil R, Urhausen A. Influence of midsole hardness of standard cushioned shoes on running-related injury risk. Br J Sports Med. 2014;48(5):371-6.