When a runner says, “Ouch, ______ (hip, knee, ankle, toe) has really been hurting lately”, there’s no doubt other runners are quick to respond with “go get fitted for the right shoes!”
Getting fitted usually means heading to a local running specialty store and having your gait and running stride analyzed. The “right” shoe usually refers to the amount of cushioning or stability you need. There are a bunch of reasons certain shoes will feel better for some people than others, but a pretty common denominator is pronation. According to Runner’s World, pronation is the natural inward roll of your foot as it strikes the ground, helping to cushion the impact of your foot against the ground and prepare to push off for the next step. Sometimes the height of the arch of your foot can cause that natural rotation to become over or under exaggerated, called overpronation or underpronation (supination). Depending on how you pronate, a running specialist may offer you a stability shoe that has mild support, a motion-control shoe that helps compensate for overpronation, or a neutral shoe that allows you foot to follow it’s natural pattern.
For years and years and years, overpronation or supination have been the scapegoats for just about every running injury you can think of, as it causes stress to the muscles. The added stress can cause your muscles to become overly tight, leading to injuries such as Achilles tendonitis, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, and ilitotibial band syndrome.
Or does it? Recently experts have been saying that pronation has been wrongly accused, that it’s not to blame for running injuries. Danish researchers studied a group of 927 beginning runners. Wearing neutral shoes (that don’t correct for pronation issues), they ran a collective 203,000 miles and accumulated 300 injuries over the course of a year. What they found was that overpronators didn’t have any more injuries than other runners. In fact, runners with a neutral stride that ran over 600 miles were more likely to incur injuries than those that pronated.
Another study showed that runners who wear shoes to account for their pronation aren’t any less likely to get injured than those that don’t pick the “right” shoe.
To veteran runners, this is almost blasphemy. The first step in running 101 is always, always, always get fitted for proper shoes. Instead of getting the right shoe based on how your feet roll, these studies suggest that perhaps it’s better to pick a shoe based on comfort and feel. Now that I can get on board with: as a chronically injured runner I’ve been told to run in just about every motion-controlled and stability shoe with every different kind of orthotic to help “correct” my stride. It wasn’t until I slipped on a neutral shoe and unintentionally darted after my son down the street that I realized just how good running could feel. Now, if only you could pick running shoes by color and design instead of by model.