Running shoe selection

Running biomechanics is an important topic for many runners because it is intricately linked to two of the most common questions in running. One being how can I improve performance and the other being how can I avoid injury? Good biomechanics can help to answer both of these questions, but what most runners are unaware of is the importance of correct footwear in achieving good biomechanics to help avoid injury.

It is expected that 37%–56% of all runners have running related overuse injuries each year. The knee joint and Achilles tendon are the most commonly injured sites, both covering about one-fifth of all running-related injuries.

Let’s say your average runner has a cadence of 170 steps per minute, and they go for an hour run. Thats 10,200 repetitious steps! Now compound that for an average of 3 runs per week. 30,600 steps! There is conjecture in the literature about the amount of load that goes through the knee’s during running, and this is largely due to the huge variability in biomechanics of each runner, however its been measured at between 2-5 x bodyweight.

A running specialist physio has an excellent understanding of these biomechanics, but where we fall significantly short is in footwear selection and how the different components of each shoe brand/model effect the biomechanics of the runner. In this area I always refer to running footwear specialists like The Running Company. As illustrated above it’s too important a variable to leave to chance.

Each year brands make small changes to model’s that can completely change how the shoe functions comparative to previous model’s. For example we have seen a large shift towards lighter shoes the last few years, lighter foam generally means it’s aerated and therefore compresses easier. This could be exactly what we don’t want depending on your specific biomechanics. Only a running shoe specialist knows which brands and models have the specific characteristics to best match you as a runner.

If we all ran with the same biomechanics then all the shoe brands would be simply competing to create the greatest shoe and this would be best for everyone. Due to the incredible complexity and variability of the running movement we need multiple brands and models each with their perspective pro’s and con’s to compensate for this and more so, we need running shoe specialists with this in-depth knowledge in order to fit the correct footwear to improve performance and avoid injury.

Aaron Babb

MAppSc (Physiotherapy)

BAppSc (Exercise Physiology)