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Am I Wearing the Right Shoe? pt. 1

by Devin Blessing, DPT, OCS

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Every runner wants to know the answer to this question: am I wearing the right shoe? This is a tricky question and there is A LOT of false information out there. Let’s sift through some of the common misconceptions.

If I have a flat foot, do I need a stability shoe?

The simple answer is no. Pronation is NOT the devil. I repeat, pronation is NOT the devil! Pronation is a normal part of the gait cycle. Everybody does it and there's absolutely no evidence to show that a stability shoe will stop you from doing it. Research actually shows that your foot moves quite a bit inside the shoe and the alignment and movement of the shoe is not indicative of what your foot is actually doing while you are running. So even if we did want to reduce your pronation, a stability shoe doesn’t stop the pronation of your foot regardless.

How about a minimalist shoe?

Proceed with caution, or don’t proceed at all. Some runners have fewer injuries with minimalist shoes, but many runners have more injuries with minimalist shoes. If you're dying to try out the minimalist fad, take it VERY SLOWLY and give your body time to adapt.

Recommendations for picking a shoe:

There are two areas that the research supports for picking a shoe:

  1. Pick a shoe that you feel comfortable in. The “goldilocks” principle applies: you don’t want too much or too little cushion; go with what feels just right on your feet. Try picking a shoe that matches the shape of your foot. If the forefoot is too narrow, your toes will be squeezed and it will alter your movement patterns.

  2. Wear a few different types of shoes throughout your week for running. Every shoe will create variable loading of your tissues, so by rotating through a few different shoes, you will help reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries by dispersing the loads differently in each shoe.

Research shows us that the shoe plays a very small role in injuries. If you're dealing with pain or injury, don’t blame it on the shoe! Seek the help of a physical therapist to perform a running gait assessment and address any strength and stability issues. And check out Part 2 of this blog series on shoe selection for runners HERE!

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