27 Apr How Your Footwear Choices Can Reduce Running Injuries
You may have embarked on a New Year’s resolution to get fit and run more, or perhaps you just regularly participate in running sports. Whatever your athletic skill-set or fitness level, the following information may prove useful when it comes to reducing the rate of nasty, long-lasting injuries.
The wrong type of running shoe can have potentially significant adverse effects, heightening the risk of developing serious lower limb, foot or ankle injuries. The number of footwear options in the market are ever-increasing, as each brand claims exclusive health benefits over its competitors. However, irrespective of those claims, one of the best ways in determining exactly how certain footwear can influence the risk of injury is to carefully study scientific evidence obtained through extensive research and controlled, clinical trials. Single, isolated studies have their uses, but a more critical and beneficial approach would be to look at systematic reviews. These take into consideration several studies conducted and are based on a particular hypothesis, reaching a fairly strong conclusion supported by the overarching results.
One of the more controversial and often-discussed topics in recent years has been the introduction and development of the partial minimalist and minimalist running shoe. There have been several studies demonstrating the potential benefits of barefoot running; conversely, there have been just as many studies outlining the potential negative effects.
Reported Beneficial Effects:
- Reduced vertical ground reaction forces, due to shorter stride length and increased stride frequency
- Increased stride frequency, resulting in both less extension movements and power absorption at the knee – this is especially useful information for those suffering from patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS)
- Reduced foot and ankle dorsiflexion upon making contact with the ground (Perkins et al., 2014)
- Minor beneficial effects on running economy for light shoe and barefoot running in comparison to conventional shoes. However, conventional running shoes with a weight of 440g per pair or less reportedly have no detrimental effect on running economy (Fuller et al., 2015)
Reported Negative Effects:
- Running with a minimalist shoe may increase plantar foot pressures without actively changing the landing pattern of the foot. Consequently, runners who do not make the above biomechanical changes – i.e., modifying their running pattern when switching from conventional shoes to minimalist shoes – may therefore actually increase vertical ground reaction forces and add further pressure to the foot
- Increased pressure in the forefoot region may contribute to the occurrence of metatarsal stress fractures in runners who have switched to minimalist shoes (Bergstra et al., 2015).
- Studies have compared different shoe types – neutral VS partial minimalist VS minimalist – and found a much higher rate of bone marrow oedema (a basic precursor to stress fractures) in those wearing minimalist shoes when compared to those wearing conventional shoes. Interestingly, that same group also had significantly smaller intrinsic foot muscles (Johnson, 2015).
- Runners starting a 12-week training program for a 10km event were assigned to one of three groups wearing either conventional neutral, partial minimalist, or full minimalist shoes. The results indicated increased injury occurrence in the partial minimalist group, while the neutral group were the least at risk of injury. The full minimalist footwear group also reported increased instances of shin and calf pain, which is of particular concern to runners with recurrent calf tear or shin splint issues (Ryan et al., 2014).
Though it’s fairly clear the debate still rages, it can be concluded, however, that despite minimalist shoes offering significant, superior running benefits in comparison to conventional shoes, they are certainly not suited to all running styles and/or foot types. Individuals with a history of forefoot stress fractures, calf injuries, Achilles tendon problems, or shin splints should perhaps exercise caution when considering using minimalist shoes. There has been a reported association between weak foot muscles and increased stress levels on the forefoot bone in those wearing minimalist shoes. Therefore, to reduce the risk of stress fractures, a program of foot muscle strength and conditioning is advised prior to transitioning from conventional running shoes to minimalist ones. Finally, it may be wise to consider gradually progressing to partial minimalist shoes for a short period of time before completing the transition to full minimalist shoes. This is to ease the shift in increased foot pressure, allowing for an adjustment and conditioning period to take place.
Foot type and posture can also influence injury rates and occurrences. Excessive foot pronation is considered to be an influential factor regarding the increased risk of developing an injury while running (Gijon-Nogueron, 2015). Motion control footwear – the kind that provides more support on the inside or medial part of the midsole – has been demonstrated to reduce the amount of foot pronation, while also decreasing levels of peak impact force during contact made with the ground (Cheung et al., 2011). However, there is no evidence to suggest that the same footwear appears to have any effect on motion control above the foot. Therefore, though it may help with problems relating to the foot, those suffering shin splints, Achilles tendon or knee issues are unlikely to benefit from this type of footwear alone.
The above is just a limited amount of information detailing how your choice in running footwear can significantly influence your rates of injury. Some feet may require additional support with prefabricated or custom-made orthotics, as footwear alone may not address underlying biomechanical issues.
If you’re a novice, experienced runner, or anywhere in between, and you’re considering transitioning to a different type of shoe, our podiatrists at Lefort Podiatry can conduct a thorough assessment to help keep you running safer and smarter for longer! Call us for an appointment on 9877 2077 today.