Do Running Shoes Cause Injuries?

The general rule of thumb is that running in supportive running shoes is essential if you want to prevent injuries. It does seem intuitive that providing cushioning for feet should help limit the effects of the pounding that causes foot, ankle, and other problems. However, a new study casts serious doubt on the positive affects of running shoes.

According to the study, running shoes cause a 54% increase in hip internal rotation torque and a 36% to 38% increase in knee torque. The study’s authors estimate that the cushioning in running shoes counteracts the body’s natural response to compensate for the torque associated with impact.

There is no doubt that runners who advocate minimalist running shoes like the Nike Free will highlight this study as proof of thick running shoes cause more harm than good. The basic argument of the minimalist fans is that shoes can be harmful if they overprotect feet and prevent the foot from forming important muscles and landing correctly. According to minimalists, shoe designers should account for how our feet were originally designed. Our foot design worked great for our prehistoric ancestors who ran down prey without any ultra-supportive shoes, and it still works for modern humans.

Personally, I’m not sure what to make of this study and the whole minimalist craze. I guess my advice is the following: If you are happy with your current running shoes, and have not suffered a large number of recent injuries, stay with what has worked for you. If you have had a number of injuries, it might not be a bad idea to at least give minimalist shoes a shot.

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