A new study from famed running hub Oregon State University has found that shoes with extra padding known as maximal running shoes did not change the way runners ran after a transition period, leaving them susceptible to increased impact force and injury.
The study followed 20 runners who ran at least 15 miles a week. After an initial training session with traditional and maximal shoes, the runners increased their use over a 6-week period, eventually transitioning to only maximal shoes for the final 2 weeks. The study showed no change in running form between traditional and maximal shoes – but it did show greater impact and loading force rates with the maximal shoe.
So should you steer clear of maximal shoes? Not so fast, says Dr. Thurmond Lanier, a podiatrist at Aurora Oshkosh Medical Center in Aurora, Wis. “There have been a number of studies that have been done on maximal running shoes and none have found a solid link between the shoes and an increase in injury.”
It’s an area of study that still needs much more research, he says. In fact, maximal running shoes may be ideal for a certain type of runner, he says.
“In general, maximal shoes will be better for patients who have a valgus heel (pronatory foot type),” says Dr. Lanier. “Maximal shoes decrease pronation by an average of 2.5%. Patients with frequent ankle sprains or a varus heel should be more cautious with wearing maximal shoes.”
So what about about the other end of the spectrum? Who are minimal or “barefoot” shoes good for?
“Some studies have shown that minimal running shoes allow more natural running motion and therefore theoretically decrease the risk of injury,” says Dr. Lanier. “There are also studies that suggest minimal running shoes allow the intrinsic muscles of the foot to strengthen thereby improving running form and also reducing pronation.”
Overall, Dr. Lanier recommends that each runner be individually evaluated to find the best shoe for them. If you are experiencing foot, knee or hip pain while running, it’s important to consult with your doctor.
So, whether you’re looking to hit the trails or train for a half-marathon, practice good running habits to avoid injury and enjoy the good weather.