Are my running shoes ruining my running form?
A pair of runners feet, wearing pink running shoes, doing running form drills

When it comes to running shoes and their impact on running form you will find much conflicting advice. Are minimalist shoes great or do they promote injuries? What about thick soled, Maximalist shoes? Are there other factors to consider? Even scientific studies are sometimes contradictory as it is often hard to create representative running conditions or have participants that represent a variety of abilities and running styles.

So we were excited to find a scientific review of many studies on how running shoes impact running form and performance. This study bi Xiaole Sun et al., published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, reviewed 63 studies that met strict quality criteria and provides us with one of the  most authoritative views on running shoes and how they influence running form and running performance.

Here are some key take aways.

✅Running shoes impact running economy, even the way you lace your shoes can have an impact. So it was found that a 7 eyelet lacing pattern is more stable and results in lower loading rates and higher comfort than 6 eyelet patterns. So use that extra eyelet on your running shoes!

✅Studies on footwear are not always conclusive but a few trends come back in multiple studies: Harder mid- soles, especially in the fore-foot area and overall stiffer shoes are good for performance, resulting in shorter ground contact times.

✅However softer midsoles can reduce impact forces and loading rates, yet they reduce the feeling for the ground (plantar sensations at touchdown). Having said that in another study maximalist shoes (shoes characterized by a thick, cushy mid-sole) lead to higher peak impact forces and loading rates, even after a program of transitioning from traditional to maximalist shoes.

✅Minimalist shoes (Usually less cushioning, lower toe to heel drop) lead to higher use and loades of the Achiles tendon, and ankle and promotes midfoot and/or forefoot running with smaller foot strike angles which helps with running speed and reduces the loading of the knee compared to conventional shoes. If runners transition too quickly from conventional shoes to minimalist shoes they risk injuries on the forefoot (eg. forefoot stress fractures, shin’s and calves).

Other than these scientific comparisons there are common-sense tips for buying shoes that have stood the test of time:

✅Give your feet room to move – ensure that the toes can spread and the toe box is wide enough. This is especially important when running downhills. Also buy shoes ideally in the afternoon – when your foot is often wider than in the morning.

✅ While we have learned that harder shoes are good for performance it may be beneficial to skip carbon plate shoes in training. While these shoes come with performance benefits, using them in every run can change your gait pattern, preventing your muscles from normally engaging with your movements, and potentially weakening your feet.

✅Consider the ground you are running on. When trail running you may want an extra grippy sole that clings to wet rocks and protects you from sharp gravel, or with large lugs that will propel you forward even on muddy trails. On track or roads you might prefer a lighter shoe, as lighter shoes also help with running performance.

✅ Alternate your shoes, particularly if you are a high-mileage runner. This way your feet are stimulated slightly differently from session to session, eventually cutting down on repetitive use injuries.

✅When in doubt choose the shoe that fits you most comfortably – the fastest shoe will stop being an advantage if you have to slow down or walk due to blisters or other discomfort.

So to summarize, here are some key conclusions.

📝 When selecting shoes you need to consider your current footwear and make any changes gradually to avoid injury from a significant change in shoe style and related change in forces on your body while running. 

📝 If you are looking for performance shoes with a stiffer fore-foot construction and a lighter shoe may be beneficial. 

📝 Minimalist shoes can have a positive impact on your running form but need to be handled with care as a too quick transition before the body can adapt is likely to lead to injury.

📝 Also runners with existing knee pain may benefit from minimalist shoes due to lower knee loading forces, while runners with Achilles tendon, calf or shin issues may see a deterioration of their conditions.

📝 Finally use common sense when choosing your shoe – consider your running conditions and comfort.

Ultimately shoes have some impact on running form but by far the biggest influence comes from what’s in these shoes – you! That means working on endurance, mobility and running form will ultimately create the biggest difference in your running. Check your running form and get the right exercises to improve at