The Comfort factor: Is comfort more important than fancy features when choosing running shoes?

Pink and orange shoes being tied up on a concrete stepHow to choose your shoes

When you look over the vast array of different running shoes at your local shoe store it can be daunting thinking about which shoe is going to be right for you.

The short answer to this one is that there isn’t just one shoe that is best for you, you still need to make a final decision usually with the aid of the shoe store person.

There are many different features and marketing that the shoe companies throw at you (and the shoe store employees) to try and entice you to purchase their latest and greatest shoe.

I am sure you have experienced a shoe store person trying and match the shape of your feet to help you pick a shoe? In particular matching flat feet to touted motion influencing features. This is traditionally done with good intention to try and help prevent injuries.

It is important to understand however that choosing shoes in this way is potentially not as important as once thought for purely trying to prevent motion – to help prevent injuries.

What to look out for?

One well-respected researcher found that these features in shoes influence the path of movement of the heel bone and lower leg bones only a small amount and it is not systematic i.e. not every runner reacts the same way to the features. (Nigg et al. 2015)

Aside from making sure the running shoes fit correctly (length & width), potentially a more important consideration when choosing shoes is comfort underfoot while running.

The same researchers suggested on the back of their research a new paradigm – The ‘comfort filter’. This states that ‘When selecting a running shoe, an athlete selects a comfortable product using his/her own comfort filter.’

This automatically reduces the injury risk and may be a possible explanation for the fact that there does not seem to have been a trend in running injury frequencies over time. (Nigg et al. 2015)

What the Podiatrists recommend

When recommending and helping my running patients choose running shoes, I like to take this important information about comfort and combine it with knowledge about the properties of plastic (foam) within the shoes.

The midsole of a running shoe is made of foam (type of plastic – most commonly Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA)) and the idea with stability features within the midsole is that there is firmer foam on the medial side of the shoe.

Even though these features do not influence motion as aforementioned they could potentially help by not allowing this side of the shoe to compress as quickly if your foot “leans” excessively to this side while you run.

This allows the shoe’s midsole to wear more evenly over the life of the shoe thus potentially getting longer out of your investment.

This also leads to the shoe maintaining a more stable platform for longer with less potential to influence motion in a negative way i.e. create more motion than natural for the runner by the foot leaning more to the compressed side.

Final Thoughts?

Please keep in mind to date I have not found research to back this last statement.

It is however safe advice to still guide runners toward these features if their foot function while running suggests so…. as long as they are very comfortable and/or just as comfortable as your previous pair of running shoes that may have been a neutral type.

In the next blog, I will give you the 7 important considerations I take into account during a consultation when helping runners choose running shoes.

 

If you or someone you know may need help with their shoes or feet get in contact with your local Sports & Spinal clinic today and book your next appointment with our Podiatry team!💙

Written By, Running, Sport & Exercise Podiatrist Aleks Baruksopulo