Should I change my running shoes?
I have treated numerous people in clinic with running injuries who have spent hundreds of pounds on running shoes and insoles. People often make big changes to their footwear after injuries, gait analysis, and advice from friends, doctors and therapists. Is gait analysis important? How much will your footwear play a part in injury prevention? Can changing your running footwear CAUSE injuries? When it comes to footwear, there is no “one size fits all” answer. In this blog, I simply want to share some food for thought if you are considering changing your running shoes.
Is gait analysis important?
Many running shoe shops offer treadmill gait analysis and use this to provide shoes with cushioning to support certain types of foot shape/stance. If going down this route, be aware of the limitations. In most running shops, they will analyse your gait wearing shoes. This makes it almost impossible to see what is actually happening at your foot! They will then inform you of how your foot strike lands – does it land in a neutral fashion, or do you land on the inside or outside of your foot and roll in or out. One thing to be aware of is that it is NOT abnormal to have a gait which rolls in or out. The term overpronation, meaning you roll inwardly onto the arch your foot during contact with the ground, is often used, and customers who overpronate are often sold a shoe with a higher support on the inside. This may be helpful in some cases, however it is worth considering that one study showed 70% of “normal”, pain free runners to overpronate. Is it necessary to “correct” overpronation in runners who have no injuries or symptoms? The old cliché of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may be relevant here, as sometimes, changing the way you transfer load through your foot may be detrimental.
Footwear and injuries
Your body will naturally move in a certain way, and if your muscles can tolerate the load you put on them, in many cases it will not cause problems. If you are having issues with pain or recurrent injury, it will be important to not only address your running shoes, but first and foremost address your muscles! Many running niggles can be rectified by strengthening and mobilising muscle groups which are weak or inefficient. IF this has been sorted, footwear may be a factor to consider.
If you suddenly make a big change to your running shoe (e.g. go from a supportive to a barefoot shoe, or flat to a high arched shoe etc), this will change the load you are putting on your muscles, tendons and joints. If you suddenly change your shoes drastically and continue training at the same intensity, your muscles will not be used to this new way of moving and will put more load on different areas. This can lead to pain and injuries.
My advice when buying shoes
For me, when buying new running shoes, first and foremost, go with what is COMFORTABLE!! This may seem obvious, but I have seen people buying shoes because they have been advised it will be good for them, even though it may not be their first choice for comfort! The next thing to think about is what are you used to. If you make big changes in your shoes (i.e. going from a traditional supportive trainer to a barefoot shoe) suddenly, your muscles won’t be used to it and you may end up being sore. If you are keen to make a big change to your shoes, make sure you do it gradually!