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Choosing a Running Shoe

With the Chicago marathon right around the corner, you might be thinking…

Do I need to change my race shoe? Do I need a shoe with extra cushioning? What if I start to get foot pain halfway through the race? Or ankle pain? Or knee pain?

Stop. Breathe.

I’ve asked these questions, myself. Good news: the answers aren’t complicated. With a little knowledge regarding shoes, you’ll be running your best race!

First, don’t change your shoes with only a month or so left until the big race. You want to continue to run in the shoes you’ve been training in, unless you are currently noticing pain during or after runs. If you have pain, contact your physical therapist, who you should already have on speed dial since she/he can help you get through your pain.

Here are three things to look for in running shoes to avoid running-related injuries: comfort, a toe box that fits you, and training in multiple shoes.

Comfort – Recent research has concluded that the most critical factor for injury prevention and running performance is comfort to the individual runner2. Pronation (the natural way your foot lands while running or walking) doesn’t seem to contribute to running-related injuries1, 4. So don’t pick a shoe based on someone saying something like “You’re overpronating; therefore you need this shoe”!

Toe Box – Make sure your toes have enough room and can wiggle freely. When you’re running for longer distances your feet sweat, your foot may move back in forth in the shoe, your toes may swell, and you don’t want a tight shoe around the toes to make things worse. If you start to feel tingling around the toes while you’re running, you need a shoe with a wider toe box.

Train in a couple different shoes – Training in different shoes has been shown to have protective effects from running-related injuries3. Make sure each of these shoes is still comfortable to wear during your run. Moreover, these researchers found that participating in sports other than running also lowered risk for developing running-related injuries. Variety is key!

Each runner and running gait is unique, therefore YOU have to pick YOUR shoe for YOUR foot. Ultimately, make your best choice by noticing how your body responds to the shoe during movement. If you notice discomfort or pain after running a couple miles in a shoe, change it up. As always, if you’re not sure, see your physical therapist for help!

References:

  1. Knapik JJ, Swedler DI, Grier TL, Hauret KG, Bullock SH, Williams KW, Darakjy SS, Lester ME, Tobler SK, Jones BH. Injury reduction effectiveness of selecting running shoes based on plantar shape. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 May;23(3):685-97. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a0fc63. PMID: 19387413.
  2. Malisoux L, Theisen D. Can the “Appropriate” Footwear Prevent Injury in Leisure-Time Running? Evidence Versus Beliefs. J Athl Train. 2020 Dec 1;55(12):1215-1223. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-523-19. PMID: 33064799; PMCID: PMC7740063.
  3. Malisoux L, Ramesh J, Mann R, Seil R, Urhausen A, Theisen D. Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk? Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Feb;25(1):110-5. doi: 10.1111/sms.12154. Epub 2013 Nov 28. PMID: 24286345.
  4. Nigg BM, Baltich J, Hoerzer S, Enders H. Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: ‘preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’. Br J Sports Med. 2015 Oct;49(20):1290-4. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095054. Epub 2015 Jul 28. PMID: 26221015.

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