Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Are Your Shoes Causing Injuries?

Here is an excerp from one of my favorite sites, The Science of Sport on the benefits of barefoot running:

To date, we have not really tackled the running shoe subject directly here at The Science of Sport, but it has come up incidentally in previous posts.

For example, it came up in the first post on our series on the Pose Running technique, where it was pointed out that ever since the "boom" in the running shoe industry about 30 years ago, the percentage of runners who get injured each year has remained pretty much the same.

So despite technological advances and developments in the industry, injury incidences have remained largely unchanged. Shoe companies make many promises, such as:

"Anti-pronation devices limit movement of the foot, reducing the risk of injury in overpronators", or "Forefoot and rearfoot cushioning devices reduce impact and the risk of injury"

Yet there's little reason to believe that this is true. The latest studies suggest that anything between 40% and 70% of runners are injured every year. And fascinatingly, in 1989, a study found that runners who ran in shoes costing more than $95 actually were twice as likely to get injured than runners who ran in shoes costing only $40! That was even after correcting for training and racing mileage! Of course, it's impossible to conclude that "expensive shoes CAUSE injury", because there are other factors that can't be accounted for. And one might argue that the typical runner of 2008 is quite different from the runners of the 1970's, who tended to be lightweight, biomechanically very different athletes. So maybe the fact that the injury rates are the same is actually a positive for the shoe industry? But let's pursue it a little further...

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