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What is the best type of running shoe?

Picking the correct running shoe can be a difficult task, especially when there is such a variety of runners on the market. It can be tricky to know what runners will be most suitable for you, and it's hard not to get sucked in by current trends and fads!

Knowing your foot type can help point you in the right direction in terms of the features you should look out for when buying running shoes.

It is important to note, that while there are recommendations for the common foot types, all feet are different and not everyone will fit into a specific category. It comes down to what kind of shoe works best for you, and this often requires some experimentation.

shoesThose with more pronated (i.e. feet that tend to roll inward, usually with a flatter arch) feet should look for a runner with the following features:

  • Motion control and stability devices
  • Good shoe pitch (the heel raise)
  • A firm heel counter - this reinforces the heel cup of the shoe, so gives more support to feet that tend to roll in
  • Try to avoid minimalist and flat shoes as these will not provide enough support

For those with a more supinated (i.e. high arch) foot:

  • Lighter weight shoe
  • Roomy shoe to accommodate a higher arch
  • Cushioning sole to give proper shock absorption
  • Try to avoid hard-soled shoes and motion control runners as these will increase supination

Evidence shows that there is no one type of running shoe that can result in a less injury-prone running style.

A recent study showed that highly cushioned, thick-soled shoes alter spring-like running mechanics, which increased the impact forces at the joints rather than reducing them. The higher impact forces measured with the highly cushioned shoes was explained by a stiffer leg when landing. This scenario compared with more conventional running shoes where runners made an effort to land more softly and not rely as much on the shoe. This may explain why shoes with greater cushioning do not protect against impact-related injuries.

For the most part, foot and ankle joints will move how they want to, and natural movement patterns are usually not altered all that much by the shoe. The most crucial element is if the shoes are comfortable - there is no point running in uncomfortable footwear!

Also, running shoes wear out - so if you have a pair you love, it is a good idea to have two pairs that you alternate between regularly. This way it's not a big deal if one pair wears out before a big race/event!

If you are unsure or feel a bit confused when deciding what running shoes to purchase, I'd recommend making an appointment to have a biomechanical assessment here in the clinic. Assessing your foot posture as well as how you walk and run allows for a more informed decision with regards to the best running shoe features for you.

By Katie Farrell BSc, MISCP

Chartered Physiotherapist

References:

Nigg et al, 2017. The preferred movement path paradigm: influence of running shoes on joint movement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise

Thiesen et al, 2016, Footwear and running-related injuries – Running on faith? Sport Orthopedics and Traumatology Sport

Kulmala et al, 2018. Running in highly cushioned shoes increases leg stiffness and amplifies impact loading. Scientific Reports

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