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Science Based Examination of Running Shoes – Great Post by Steve Magness from The Science of Running

Posted on June 11 2010

The Science of Running

There’s been an awful lot of chatter over the past year about the design of running shoes. There are people that shun them entirely and prefer to run barefoot, others who think barefooting is crazy and stick with their heavily cushioned trainers, and yet others who take a more moderate approach and recognize the potential benefits of various types of footwear (or lack thereof). What’s lacking in much of the discussion of this topic is science – too often people base their arguments on anecdote and opinion, without much evidential support.

Every once in awhile you read an article that stands out in it’s approach to the topic by offering a reasoned series of arguments that are supported by citations from the scientific literature. The following article by Steve Magness from the Science of Running blog is one of those articles:

Why Running Shoes Do Not Work: Looking at Pronation, Cushioning, Motion Control and Barefoot Running.

I found Steve’s post via a link on Amby Burfoot’s Peak Performance blog, and I’m not going to say to much about it other than that you should read it. Better, if you have any interest at all in the science (or lack thereof) behind the design features of modern running shoes as they relate to injury and performance, this article is an absolute must read – if nothing else, it will make you think, and it will make you want to do some further research (if you read this Steve, can you add a literature cited to the bottom of your post so I can look up some of the articles you cite?).

I’ll whet your appetite with a few quotes:

The running shoe model needs to be fixed. Pronation, Motion Control, Cushioning, and Stability shoes? Get rid of them all.

If excessive pronation does not cause injuries to the degree that everyone thinks, and if motion control shoes don’t even alter pronation, what’s the point of a motion control shoe?

Looking at elite athletes, when racing and training, they generally have higher turnover, minimal ground contact time, and a foot strike that is under their center of gravity. Since the majority of elites exhibit these same characteristics while racing, it makes sense that this is the optimal way to run fast. So, why are we wearing footwear that is designed to increase ground contact, decrease turnover, and promote footstrike out in front of the center of gravity? I have no idea.

The type of shoe and material of the shoe changes impact or stride characteristics NOT because of alignment of the lower leg or because of changes in cushioning. Instead it changes impact and stride characteristics because it alters the sensory feedback. The brain is a wonderful thing.

Here again is the link to Steve’s article, please do give it a read: http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2010/01/why-running-shoes-do-not-work-looking.html.

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