I had a client come into the clinic a few weeks ago complaining of knee and foot pain. They enjoy running and have done for years and remarkably have never experienced an injury from running. So why all of a sudden have they started having knee and foot pain? After some discussion it turns out they changed their running shoe around the same time the pain started. Taking a closer look at the new shoe that was recommended to them, we realised that the shoe offered too much arch support and as a result altered their biomechanics causing knee and foot pain.
So what should we look for in a running shoe?
Ideally, when we stand, walk or run our foot should maintain a neutral position. The ground reaction forces do not get absorbed well in a non-neutral foot and as a result this can cause discomfort up the chain leading to possible ankle, knee, hip and lower back injury. Running shoes generally provide more cushioning than your everyday shoe to compensate for the high impact involved in running. Each runner has different individual needs when considering footwear. Therefore certain factors are important to consider when choosing the right shoe for your foot.
Are lightweight or minimalist shoes a good idea?
New trends are always emerging with running shoes, and it is important to be weary of this. If you have used a particular brand and style of shoe in the past and never had any injures while running in them, then I would recommend sticking with the same brand and style. Chances are this shoe works for you and your biomechanics. Some of the lightweight shoes, also called minimalist shoes, are great for particular runners with more experience and an optimal running style. These shoes may offer a change to your mechanics and help you become a more efficient runner encouraging you to shift your centre of gravity in front of your midline and strike the ground with your mid to forefoot instead of your heel. However, if you are heel heavy and have a difficult time shifting your centre of gravity forward then this type of shoe may cause different ailments altogether.
Be mindful when running in new shoes, wear them in gradually. A long run (>10 kms) in a new shoe is never a good idea. Start with a few shorter runs to ensure the shoe is a good fit before venturing too far. Seeking advice from a podiatrist or physiotherapist is also a good suggestion if you are unsure, seeking a different style of shoe or if you have had problems in the past with running injuries.
Good luck and happy running.
K. Starrett & TJ Murphy (2014) Ready to Run. Unlocking your potential to run naturally.