If you’ve ever sustained an injury from running, you’re not alone; about half of all adults who run regularly will get injured each year. And if that’s not enough to put you off, having a history of previous injuries is one of the strongest risk factors for getting injured again.
So it’s no surprise that avoiding injuries is a priority for runners.
One third of runners are so concerned about this, in fact, that they’ll ditch their plain old running shoes for fancier footwear they feel is safer and will improve their performance. But do the promises made by global footwear companies about their expensive running shoes stack up?
The first thing we need to address is whether the modern running shoe’s extra safety features, such as increased stability or extra cushioning, are protecting people from injury. Not very much, according to a provocative 2009 review that highlighted a lack of research testing exactly this.
More evidence has emerged since, but we’re still none the wiser.
One study that randomly allocated 81 female runners to shoes with different levels of stability based on their foot posture (pronated, neutral, supinated) found no difference in injury rates during a 13-week training program. Another, which randomly allocated hard or soft-soled shoes to 247 runners, also found no difference in injury rates over a five-month period.
But despite the current state of research literature indicating no clear benefits of running shoes with extra safety features, we’re bombarded by claims from global footwear companies about the advantages of their expensive products.
When we dissect the content of the claims made by these manufacturers, we see a recurrence of vague terms, teetering dangerously between the medical and sportswear industries.