The traditional way an assistant in a sports shop assign running shoes is based upon your foot type. In particular, they take account of your arch height. If you have a flat arch they recommend motion control shoes, for a normal arch stability shoes are recommended and for those with a high arch cushioning or neutral shoes are recommended.

 

 

This approach has recently been criticised by leading Sports Podiatrist Ian Griffiths (http://sportspodiatryinfo.wordpress.com/) as not being based upon research, if fact, the majority of research in this area shows that this approach is wrong.

 

The traditional approach is based upon;

·         pronation is considered to be predictive of injury.

·         that all runners should have a similar foot posture.

·         that the foot type is predictive of its function during running.

 

These assumptions have now been shown to be incorrect. The majority of studies have shown no link between pronation and injury (e.g. Nielsen et al 2014). Foot shape has not been shown to predict foot function during running. Research shows that the major causes of running injury are training errors and hip musculature dysfunction.

 

So, if the traditional approach appears to be an inappropriate method of choosing running shoes what approach should you take?

 

Griffiths recommends that you pick the most comfortable shoe. Shoe comfort has been reported to decrease injury frequency. Of course, the most comfortable shoe may well be the one that the traditional approach recommends. Others have recommended that you should choose shoes with decreased drop heights (i.e. the difference between the shoes heel and forefoot height). So the way forward may be a return to the past when running shoes had little cushioning or support. The proponents of barefoot and minimalist running point to the research that shows that their use leads to altered kinetics and kinematics during running that should result in decreased injury and increased performance. Although, to date, no research has been published to confirm or refute this.  

 

 

A lower drop height/heel height has been reported to reduce vertical ground reaction force and peak loading rates (Giandolini et al 2013), both of which have the potential to reduce injury. Dicharry (2013) states that the benefits of reducing drop height are improved intrinsic muscle activity, improved balance, proprioception and foot strength as well as the benefits of lighter weight. He recommends making a gradual change in reducing your drop height e.g. if your current drop height is 12mm move down to 6-8mm. You will need time for your body to adapt to this change, so running volume should be reduce by half for 2-4 weeks before returning to normal volume. Further reductions in drop height can be made over time.

 

So, what is best for you? If you have not been having problems with your current type of running shoes is it worth taking the risks in changing? Science suggests that you would be at lower risk of injury in a shoe with better comfort and a lower heel drop. There is only one way to know for certain….