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The Key Factor In Choosing The Best Running Shoes

This “New” Standard May Surprise You ~

Choosing the best running shoes can be really confusing these days.

The types of shoes out there have multiplied until you wonder if what you’re wearing is still the best running shoe for you.

It used to be a few years back that “barefoot” or minimalist running shoes were all the rage.  Now it appears more recently that the pendulum has swung back to a super-cushioned type of shoe being most popular.

Add to that the research finding that “fixing” a runner’s pronation is not necessarily a good thing and that a person’s “natural” foot movement is the best.

So, how do you know what’s really right for you when choosing a running shoe?

A comprehensive review of running shoes and their injury risks, released last week, appears to shed a whole lot more light on the topic. This review studied decades of research on runners and was published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.

We boiled it down to three steps to consider when choosing the best running shoes:

Step 1: Forget About Pronation

Pronation is basically how much your foot rolls inward when you land as you stride. Much has been made in the past about “correcting” pronators with certain types of shoes.

Dr. Benno Nigg, a professor emeritus and world expert on biomechanics, was the lead researcher in the recent review of runners and their shoes that found:

“Pronation, for instance, does not seem to be a problem requiring correction. In the one large-scale experiment studying pronation, almost 1,000 novice runners, some of whom pronated and some of whom did not, were given the same running shoes and followed for a year.

At the end of that time, many of the runners with normal feet and form — who did not overpronate — had become injured, but a much smaller percentage of those who overpronated had been sidelined.

Dr. Nigg and his colleagues write in their review that this finding suggests “that a pronated foot position is, if anything, an advantage with respect to running injuries.”

Step 2: Don’t Worry About Footstrike Impact

Another factor that shoe makers and researchers have made important in the past is the amount of impact made when a foot strikes the ground.

Barefoot, or minimal shoe enthusiasts, say that a shoe with less cushioning allows your foot to more naturally feel where the ground is and allow it to strike, interact with the ground and push off in a more natural way than very cushioned/stiff shoes.

Cushioned shoe fans say that the extra cushioning protects their feet from the harder impact and any potential damage that the impact may have on their feet.

Professor Nigg’s review found that:

“Similarly, [the researchers] found little evidence that forcefully striking the ground causes injuries or that changing or removing your shoes alters those impacts much anyway.”

So you don’t need to worry about how the shoe will affect your footstrike.

Step 3: The Key Factor In Picking The Right Shoe

So, what really matters most when choosing the best running shoe?

Comfort.

That’s it. Comfort: what feels the best to your feet.

Professor Niggs and his team reviewed all the studies of injuries and shoes and concluded that people who chose shoes that felt the most comfortable to them experienced less injuries than those who were assigned shoes to them.

“This finding makes scientific and common sense, Dr. Nigg said. Our bodies are actually ‘very good judges’ of how each of us should move and run, he said. When we ignore or fight our bodies’ natural movement pattern, he said, such as by trying to control pronation, the risk of injury rises.

Instead, he said, we should pay close attention to our body’s opinion about running shoe options.

‘Try on four or five pairs,’ Dr. Nigg said. Jog around the store or the block in each.

‘People can usually tell right away which shoe feels the most comfortable,’ Dr. Nigg said. ‘That is the one to choose.’”

(Many thanks to the NYT for its original story and to housefullofboys.com  for the image.)

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