According to National Runners Survey, injury prevention, cushion, and motion control are some of the biggest concerns when people shop for running shoes. Arch support is often considered a quick fix for issues like pronation, plantar fasciitis, lower limb injuries, or pain.
It’s a common practice to recommend motion control for people with flat feet. Cushioned shoes are recommended for people with high arches. Moderate pronators can go for stability shoes.
We wanted to see if there’s scientific evidence for all this or not. It turned out that most of these recommendations are nothing but hearsay.
We carried out a meta analysis of 150+ studies about arch support. Our results suggest that choosing the right shoe requires a lot more than wet test. It wouldn’t be a stretch if we say that people are doing it all wrong when choosing running shoes.
Want to know the biggest mistakes people make? Here we go:
Shoes cannot prevent injuries:
Researchers provide marine corps trainers with cushioned, motion control, and stability shoes according to their arch types. Hardly any difference was observed in the overall injury rate after 12 weeks of training. Another study found that basketball shoes could not make a difference to injury risk when compared with infantry boots.
There are studies that observed a small drop in lower limb injuries. However, the overall injury rate was the same in these cases. It means that cushion or motion control shoes might prevent injuries or pain in the foot region but the drastic change in posture or gait leads to injuries in other parts.
If you want to reduce the chance of getting injured, you need to work on physical strength, flexibility, and stamina. Don’t look for an easy solution in shoes.
Shoes cannot make you a better runner:
Do you think that an expensive pair of shoes can make you a better, more efficient runner?
Truth is, running shoes will make little or no difference to your performance. Even worse, the cushion or arch support can interfere with the natural ability of arches to save some energy.
Look at how arch stores and reuses the energy as it compresses and recoils.
It means that you will waste more energy.
Studies have found barefoot runners with better economy than the ones wearing advanced shoes.
There are no shortcuts to improved performance. Using shoes with fancy stuff like carbon plates might shave some minutes but you don’t need any of that unless you are a competitive runner.
The goal is to improve your stamina and overall fitness. So, the only thing you want from your shoes is to compliment your natural stride.
Cushion is overrated:
You need shoes to protect your feet from sharp objects or surface but you don’t need a thick and soft sole to minimize impact.
Studies have shown that running does not put more stress on your feet or knees than walking. You don’t need any extra cushion. In fact, the impact is greater when you are using a thick sole because you hit the ground harder.
Another drawback of excessive cushion is that you are more likely to land on rearfoot, which is not the most efficient way of absorbing shock. You have got to land on frontfoot. It is clear that excessive cushion will result in more stress on your feet or knees, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Pronation is not necessarily a bad thing:
Excessive pronation or no pronation can lead to injuries but moderate pronation is not something you should be worried about. In fact, some degree of pronation is needed for supporting the body weight. You don’t need a specific type of shoe because the salesperson thinks you pronate more than the average.
There is no average that you need to maintain and pronation is found to be the minimum in barefoot runners.
If you have recurring injuries or pain, you can benefit from the use of some arch support. However, the advice must come from a qualified physician after a careful analysis. They will look into a lot of things like heel deviation, gait analysis, and tibia rotation before recommending anything.
We also invited podiatrists and orthopedic doctors to share their thoughts. This quote by Dr Matthew Klein sums it up perfectly.
If you are still giving people arch support based on their arch shape, you should go back to the 1980s.