The Science Of Running Shoes: Which Type Is Best For You?

Amy Schaeffer - Author

Oct. 17 2016, Updated 1:41 a.m. ET

These days, everyone from exercise physiologists to engineers in anatomical biomechanics seem to be weighing in on what is the correct running shoe for you. Do you pronate inward? Strike in your mid-foot? Are you flat footed or have a high arch? How much do you weigh? They may even put you on a fancy machine that throws out analytics about how you run and suggests a shoe based upon those analytics. It seems so sensible and firmly rooted in science. Right?

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Wrong. While many are going in for “running shoe diagnostics” and paying close to $200 for a pair of running shoes that will need to be replaced in 300 miles or so (which is not long for a dedicated runner), one could easily spend over $1,000 a year just on running shoes. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, there’s even a device that informs you when your shoes need replacing. While sports in general are expensive, one of the joys of running is that it’s cheap. All you need, really, is a road or a trail or a beach or a treadmill. Whether or not you even need shoes at all is up for debate. There was a recent craze in running barefooted, and while this may not be harmful from a body mechanics perspective, it’s not advisable on any surface where glass, syringes, rocks, heat, or cold would be encountered. Therefore, running barefoot is not feasible for most people from a safety perspective.

The average consumer walks into a shoe store and is immediately overwhelmed by the selection – the brands, styles, colors, words like “neutral” or “natural,” and then, of course, the price. The most expensive is probably the best, most assume. They will help the runner, whether novice or advanced, perform better, they surmise. So after doing an internet search of “the best” running shoe, they’ll pick up their Brooks or Saucony or Nike or New Balance and head to the counter.

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The problem is, research shows that exactly the opposite is true. In fact, research shows that the less money you spend on your running shoes, the more satisfied you will be with them, according to Quartz. People who spent $61 on average were most satisfied with their running shoes. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine is denouncing all the fancy diagnostics — much to the chagrin of many retailers, no doubt. The lead author of the study is Benno Nigg, an emeritus professor of kinesiology at the University of Calgary and an expert that the New York Times proclaims “one of the world’s foremost experts on biomechanics.” The conclusion of Nigg and his team is something incredibly simple and probably something that every generation before this one had already figured out: the best shoe for your foot is the one that is most comfortable.

Running in shoes that are comfortable to you may reduce your risk of injury, according to the Conversation, but running in and of itself is not a low-injury sport, regardless of what shoes you wear. Stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, sprains, strains, trauma to toenails, and similar injuries are likely to be a part of every runner’s life at some point. No running shoe can protect you from injury, regardless of claims. Common sense and listening to your body’s cues is still the best course to take when it comes to injury prevention, not to mention days of rest.

The next time you are tempted to buy “the latest” running shoe, make sure that the latest running shoe is what is actually comfortable on your feet. You don’t need a fancy diagnostic center, you already have one — your brain. Try on different styles and brands and then buy what you feel you’d actually do the most running in. That’s the point, after all. Happy trails!

[In-article photos by Amy Schaeffer and Getty Images, Featured Image by Shutterstock]


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