Running Footwear: what you need to know
Running footwear is a huge business. Never forget it is a business. What's interesting to note is that when it comes to injury rates and runners, footwear is one small component. There are many other things that play a much larger role. Sensible training habits, building up slowly, and running consistently go a long way towards staving off an injury.
But when it comes to footwear, remember shoes are important, but not that important when it comes to preventing lower limb injuries. In fact, all the technology in the world, including motion control, extra cushioning, or minimalist cushioning, will not prevent an injury that comes on from poor training.
And a recent, high quality review has investigated this question about footwear: Do different types of running shoes prevent lower limb injuries? What did they find?
First, we should mention that systematic reviews published by Cochrane are generally considered very high quality of research. They assessed 12 studies, pooled the data from 11240 participants, and concluded the following:
Most evidence demonstrates no reduction in lower-limb running injuries in adults when comparing different types of running shoes. Overall, the certainty of the evidence determining whether different types of running shoes influence running injury rates was very low to low, and as such we are uncertain as to the true effects of different types of running shoes upon injury rates.
There is no evidence that prescribing footwear based on foot type reduces running-related lower-limb injures in adults. The evidence for this comparison was rated as moderate and as such we can have more certainty when interpreting these findings. However, all three trials included in this comparison used military populations and as such the findings may differ in recreational runners.
In conclusion, footwear alone is not a panacea for runners. Training programs, load management, consistency and other factors play a larger role in reducing your risk of running related injuries. When taking advice from a salesperson, always take it with some skepticism. The shoes should feel very comfortable to you right away, so perhaps try walking or running in them in the store prior to purchasing them.
Relph N, Greaves H, Armstrong R, Prior TD, Spencer S, Griffiths IB, Dey P, Langley B. Running shoes for preventing lower limb running injuries in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2022, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD013368. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD013368.pub2.