If the Shoe Fits
by Anne Stancil
A customer sent me a link to this NY Times Well Blog about a recent study involving the correlation between running shoes and injury. He asked my opinion given our Fit Process here at Fleet Feet Sports. The article definitely caught my attention, and rather than respond just to him, I wanted to address it in a more public forum.
While most research studies are not without flaws, they raise interesting questions and spark discussion, which in my opinion, is a good thing. This study from Aarhus University in Denmark about the role of running footwear (or lack thereof) and injury certainly raises questions. To summarize briefly, researchers gathered a group of novice runners, gave them all the same type of neutral running shoes, and then tracked their rate of injury over the course of a year. Interestingly, there was no stipulation on how far, fast, or where the participants ran. On first glance I disagreed immediately: “what do they mean that the type of running shoe doesn’t matter—of course it does”. Upon further reading, however, I actually agree with many of the ideas presented here. First of all, footwear is only one piece to the challenging puzzle of running injury. In fact, the majority of injuries we see are the result of improper training and overuse. Although we like to blame our shoes, treating an injury requires multiple approaches and remedies.
Having said that however, it doesn’t mean that proper footwear or improper footwear can’t play a role in injury. What we’ve discovered over the years at Fleet Feet is that the fit of the shoes can matter a great deal in a runner and walker’s overall performance and comfort. This can be related to the type of shoe—neutral, stability, or motion control—but not always. There are many factors to consider in shoe fit—the length, width, shape, and volume of the shoe do matter and it’s important to find the proper fit. Common problems like blisters and plantar fasciitis can be solved by a well-fitting shoe. We also want to consider potential need for an insert or a technical sock. If you've experienced our Fit Process here at Fleet Feet, you know that we consider all of the above when fitting shoes, including the rate of pronation for each foot, as it can play a role in fit.
The big takeaway for me when reading this blog was the need to consider the variety of factors that can contribute to running injuries. While I'm left with questions regarding the study itself--were there certain injuries that appeared more frequently than others? Did injuries correlate more to the amount of milage?--I'm glad it was published, since it hopefully will create discussion.
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