Because the biomechanics of running are complex and people vary greatly in their running styles, there is no one-size-suits-all shoe type. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t be swayed by the bells and whistles of any new trend in running shoes. There are no magical shoes that can guarantee protection against injury or improvements in performance, as some testimonials suggest. Instead, pick a shoe that fits well and is comfortable for you. As a 2015 British Journal of Sports Medicine paper reported, “Shoe conditions that are more comfortable are associated with a lower movement-related injury frequency than shoe conditions that are less comfortable.”
- You could consider trying a pair of maximalist shoes if you have had problems with plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis in the past. Extra cushioning may also be a good idea if you have had prior stress fractures of the metatarsal (foot) bones or metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot), both typically overuse injuries. But the shoes are not for everyone: If you have a history of tibial (shinbone) stress fractures or knee, hip, or back pain, you might do better with a shoe that has a firmer, less cushiony midsole. Maximalist shoes may also be less desirable if you do fast runs where you need a firm shoe that helps your body accelerate rapidly off the ground.
- If you are transitioning to a new type of running shoe—whatever type it is—do so gradually to avoid injury. That means wearing them initially for only short runs or for only part of your usual run so your body can adjust, and working up to longer runs over a period of a few weeks.
- A 2014 consumer guide from the American College of Sports Medicine offers some practical tips: For instance, the difference in height between the heel and toe should be no more than 6 mm (about ¼ inch); some traditional and maximalist running shoes have “heel drops” much greater than that. And the shoes should be lightweight—for example, no more than 8 ounces for women’s size 8 and no more than 10 ounces for men’s size 9.
- Last but not least, as sports experts advise, runners should spend more time improving their form and increasing muscle strength in their feet, legs, and hips instead of looking to the latest shoe on the market.
Published November 17, 2015