Should I wear a particular type of running shoe?

You can’t beat that feeling of going for your first run in your new pair of trainers. However, getting to that stage can seem like a fairly hazardous decision to make. On entering the shop or looking on-line we are suddenly faced with different makes, styles, colours and now even one manufacturer suggesting their trainer is going to help someone break the 2 hour barrier for a marathon!

The questions we get asked regularly in clinic are… Should I have my gait analysed and should I pick my trainers to fit my ‘running style’ and my ‘foot type?’

So let’s try and help answer these questions…

One of the first things you will come across when looking to buy a pair of running trainers are the terms Motion Control, Neutral and Cushioning shoes.

But what do they actually mean??

Motion control is often suggested and recommended for runners who ‘over pronate’ (have low arches). Cushioning is often suggested for the opposite ‘under pronators/supinators’ (have high arches) and Neutral is recommended for the runner with the supposedly ‘perfect biomechanics’.

But the big questions are… What actually is ‘perfect biomechanics’ and what actually is ‘normal’??

There is a huge variability between how everybody’s ankles and feet move so you could argue ‘normal’ does not really exist. For example normal for one person could be an over pronater, but this is where their ‘load tolerance’ (See previous blog - Source) has been built up over years. By changing this and recommending a ‘Motion Control’ shoe (which often happens to primarily prevent over pronation) this could actually cause a new injury/issue as the load will be transferred to a different area, which will likely be less tolerant and potentially lead to problems arising. Therefore this is probably the last thing you would want to do for someone who has no injury concerns and has run with this style for many years.   

A perfect example of somebody running with ‘over pronation’ with no problems is one of the world’s best ever runners Haile Gebrselassie (See link below)...


So how do I choose my new running trainers??

At this present time there are a vast amount of studies exploring this with some of the best evidence opposing the regularly recommended afore mentioned shoe types being matched to the individuals running gait and foot posture. Some of the key studies that strongly challenge our traditional views on shoe and foot type are summarised below.

 A large study was carried out by Knapik (2014)(Source) who looked at 789 runners wearing running shoes based upon their foot type and a similarly large group of runners all wearing stability shoes regardless of their foot type/posture. Their injury rates were then compared with the results showing there was no difference between the two groups!

Another large study which included one of Nike’s leading bio-mechanists (Ryan et al, 2011)(Source), took a large group of women runners and randomised them to the 3 shoe types previously discussed. They then took a separate group who had shoes matched to their foot posture. Not only did this not provide any evidence towards wearing shoes based on your foot posture it actually found the matched shoe to foot type group developed more injuries instead!

So what trainer shall I buy!???

With the vast amount of evidence available and the ongoing research it is not conclusive to suggest we need to be worried about how we run and about our ‘foot posture’ when choosing our new trainers. Instead, it all comes down to something far more simplistic…

The most clear evidence points towards choosing our shoes on... 1) What is most comfortable in general and 2) Dependant on any symptoms we may struggle with (Nigg et al, 2015, 2017).(Source, Source

However, one piece of advice we would strongly advocate is not to drastically change your type of trainer as this has been clearly proven to significantly increase your injury risk due to the changes in distribution of load. Examples of this can include changing from a shoe with a larger heel drop towards a minimalist shoe. If you are thinking of doing this it should be undertaken with graded exposure over time allowing the foot/lower limb to adapt.

We hope you have enjoyed the latest instalment of the Consortium Chartered Physiotherapists blog. If you have any questions or require any further advice surrounding this topic or any other injury problems please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can schedule you to have a review with our running injury specialist physiotherapist.

Kind regards,

The Consortium Chartered Physiotherapists Team