Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Saucony Winner and Running Shoe Study

The winner of the Online Shoes/Saucony Giveaway is #43 Michelle from Running with Attitude. Great blog name, great lady! Shoot me an email at and we’ll go from there.

I never re-post old posts because you already read it and since I’m boring, you probably don’t want to read it again.

It would just be fart, crap, repeat, right?

But, there are exceptions to every rule. During the great blogger crash of twenty eleven, I lost a post about the link between injuries and running shoes. Fortunately, I do my blogging on Windows Live Writer, so the draft was still there. Problem was, you all left some amazing, insightful and informative comments that got blasted into outer space (maybe it was the rapture).

I’ve had several readers ask what happened to that post and the ensuing comments.

Here is a re-post of what was written and I’m asking you to PLEASE take the time to re-comment so I, as well as other readers, can learn from your responses.

So, here goes:

A not-yet published article swimming around in the running world is causing quite a stir. The title?

New Injury Study Finds No Link to Running Form or Shoe Type

I am just the messenger. Please do not throw stones.

How did I get my hands on the contents of this top secret article to be presented for the first time at the American College of Sports Medicine in Denver in May? A synopsis of it is on the Runner’s World website. Duh!

Here’s the skinny:

  • The study was conducted at the University of North Carolina and included 700 local runners (ages 18-50) who have had been running on average for 10 years at about 20 miles per week.
  • 57% were female


  • Heel strikers who had injuries in the past 12 months: 49.3% (the highest percentage represented)
  • Mid foot strikers who had injuries n the past 12 months: 51%
  • Forefoot strikers who had injuries in the past 12 months: 49%
  • Barefoot runners who had injuries in the past 12 months: 43%
  • Chi, POSE, similar running styles who had injuries in the past 12 months: 46% (the lowest percentage represented at only 5%)
  • Those running in traditional running shoes reported similar rates of injury for stability, motion control and cushioning shoes
  • Runners reported an average of 41.6 injury days in the past 12 months

Author and researcher Don Goss, an Army PT who has conducting running shoe clinics for the past 16 years, does not necessarily think the study is conclusive or completely represents the truth for the running community. While he agrees that it appears there are no differences in overall injury incidence between runner using different strike patterns and shoe options, he is adamant that more data is needed.

He does report, “It looks like barefoot running and minimalist shoes increase risk of some foot injuries by while rear foot striking and traditional shoes increase knee injuries.” Given this, certain shoe/strikes types might be more advantageous for runners with particular types of injuries.

He agrees the weakness of the study is that it doesn’t represent a large enough sample of runners.

In response to what Goss thinks causes injuries, he states, “There’s not one simple answer to that question. Training errors, mal-alignment or the genetic predispositions, tight soft tissues and bad technique would certainly all be at the top of my list.”

He goes on to say that we are all different and there is not one cure all shoe or running pattern that will wipe out all injuries.

That said, he wants you to be part of the ongoing study by taking the running survey HERE (you must be 18-50 years of age and run at least 6 miles per week).

My impressions? It is useful and insightful information. Just looking how running form and running shoes have changed over the past decades, it’s obvious that we are still evolving and trying to find the answers. There is not a “one size fits all” panacea, but it is very unique to each individual depending on hundreds of factors. I agree that a much larger sample of runners is needed to make any definite conclusion.

I have had two stress fractures. I truly believe the first one in my foot was the result of bad shoes (really bad, cheap, no support shoes) and overtraining. The second one – in my hip – I  believe was linked to my lack of cross training, deficiencies in my diet and no recovery weeks.  If I had been running barefoot, been in different shoes or striking on my forefront, could my injuries have been prevented? Maybe, but I’ll never know.

What are your thoughts? Do you think foot strike and running shoes can contribute to, or minimize injury risk?



  1. I definitely think that foot strike can contribute to injury. When I tried to run a year ago I was heel striking in support shoes and my knees would hurt all the time. I stopped running when I broke my toe and when I started again in October I switched to midfoot and have had no problems other than the sore hips that I would probably get anyway. It was easy for me to switch pattern because I hadn't really established a running pattern. I also went to Neutral shoes, and now are in minimal shoes (Kinvara and NB 101's LOVE!) with still no injuries besides normal stuff! I think that while it is always personal as we are all different, I think there might be something to the less is more theory. I also follow RLRF, so that might help.

  2. Hmmm, all I know is I need the best shoes for my feet so they don't kill me when I run. Do those shoes prevent injuries? I have no idea.

  3. So, after ankle, knee, and hip injuries happening consistently, I finally decided to try something new. Started running once a week in toe shoes, and working on straightening out my hips, moved to a mid or fore-foot strike. So far, I have higher mileage than I ever had before, and on Monday I ran (OK, jogged really slowly) the Bolder Boulder straight through with no joint pain, just normal muscle stuff.

    It is probably the individual, but maybe just being conscientious about injury helps to prevent it....

    Also, I would like to point out that it says nothing about the severity of the injuries. I would think that the heel strike would get an injury much more often just based on how hard you hit and how unnatural the pose is, but people hurt their feet on the mid and fore foot strik because they are not use to using those muscles, but can avoid injury if they work it.

  4. UGH!!!! People who JUMP into BF running and do not listen WILL GET HURT. These are the people that are being represented in these studies. People who slap on minimalist shoes and run without and bf training etc also cause all this injury talk..The people who follow the rules have the greatest stories of success and those are the people I listen to.

  5. I think your stride can definitely make a difference, and may change depending on the shoe you use. I also think that you need to try a few things out (ease into them (as Tri-Living.. Together points out), and find the right combination for your body.
    Having said that, I also think that strength training, in addition to running, goes a long way towards preventing injury. I had a hip problem a few years back, and my PT got me doing more resistance and weight training. It not only made me a better runner, it made me one with a better hip.. no issues since I started doing that.

  6. I don't think so, but keep in mind I don't know anything.
    I feel like trying to drastically change the way I run would cause more injuries than just running poorly.
    I do know that when I switched to LESS cushiony (That's a technical term.) shoes my shin/calf problems went away.
    Maybe it is coincidence. Again I do not know.

  7. I'm 100% convinced my overstriding (heel striking) in regular running shoes (non-minimalist) caused my 2-years in hell injury. Since I changed my strike and my shoe, I have felt the best I have in 2 years. Hum....

  8. yeesh, who knows. I like the quote about there not being one answer for everyone. There are so many things to take into account, MOST important being the specific person. I think each person needs to make tiny adjustments, tweaking their way to their own personal "right/best" form.

  9. I swear by the experts. I sprung my ankle a few years ago (falling over a curb) and couldn't run for a month! I wen to Boulder Running Company and they changed my shoes. I was running the next day. I did recently switch stores, decided I didn't save much, if anything, and for the next pair, I'll be back to Boulder Running Company.

  10. You also have to keep in mind that this study only accounts for people who have been running for 10 plus years. They have had time to make adjustments to reduce thier own injuries. It doesn't include people who buy the wrong shoes, have the wrong foot strike/bad form, get injured and then QUIT running. We all have seen people out running that are just painful to watch! I have only been running a few years (so I don't know much!) I haven't had any real serious injuries, but I have had to make many adjustments including different shoes, being aware of my posture and form, and strength training to avoid hip problems. All have made a HUGE difference in how I feel. I agree, everyone is different and you have to do what is right for you. You don't have to make drastic changes, but if you're having problems a few small changes can make a big difference so you can keep running!

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  12. Cool, I saw this info in Runner's World too. Something awesome about reading the same things as you! (I know . . . what a brown-noser!)

  13. Great post - definitely worthy of re-posting. I remember reading and I'm sure I commented, but I doubt it was all that insightful. ;)

  14. There are very few studies out there that compare footware or lack of it to injuries. As a result there has been a huge debate between the barefoot or minimalist runners and the podiatrists over the past few years. Unfortunately, neither really don't have much in the way of supporting evidence about what is best. Now we have a study that suggests there isn't really a trend between shoe type or running form and injury. This leaves us with individual anecdotal experiences and opinions based on that about what is best. Unfortunately, it will always be argued that what might be good for one individual is not necessarily the answer for everyone.

    I have a "some" experience, background and opinions about footware that I'd like to share. Keep in mind, it is entirely based on my experience and point of view.

    A little of my background. I started running in 1973 and ran an estimated 20,000 miles before beginning a running log in 1982 and have since run over 74,000 documented miles for a total of over 94,000 documented and estimated miles. During that time, I have NEVER been injured and have never missed a run due to injury. I do not think my lack of injury has occurred randomly or by chance.

    Sure, heredity has a lot to do with it but heredity is not going to protect you from never ending repetitive impact with the ground. It is the repetitive nature of running combined with impact that is the driver behind running injuries.

    We can chose a certain type of running shoe, chose as certain running form, chose a certain training technique, chose a certain running surface all for the purpose of minimizing injury. Once the individual runner has dialed in all of these variables, the problem is that repetition and impact still occur. For a given set of variables the foot is still going hit the ground in a certain way for thousands and thousands of times. Eventually, the body breaks down and injury occurs.

    Impact is unavoidable in running. From a physics point of view, running is a series of controlled falls, repeated over and over. Without these controlled falls and the opposing ground force reaction, forward momentum would not be possible.

    Assuming impact is something that can't be controlled, what about repetition? You still need to put one foot in front of the other but what if the mechanics of how the foot hits the ground is changed slightly and often?

    A way of changing the repetition is to change the variables that influence how the foot hits the ground. As stated earlier, some of the variables are shoe type, running form, training, surface, stride rate, stride length, etc.

    By simply changing the SHOES you run in, you can easily effect your form and how your foot hits the ground. It can also effect your stride rate and stride length and it can change your running pace. All of these factors help reduce the repetitive nature of how the foot impacts with the ground simply by changing the mechanics by changing your shoe.

    I have absolutely no supporting studies to back up my opinion that it is important to frequently rotate the shoes you wear other than the outcome I have personally experienced by doing so.

    I currently own 13 different models of active pairs of running shoes that range from Vibram Five Fingers up to Nike Air Max 2009. I rarely wear the same pair of shoes more than one run per week. While I prefer wearing minimalist shoes, I also rotate in heavy, cushioned, supportive shoes for the purpose of varying the way my foot impacts the ground.

    The whole point is to reduce the repetitive nature of running. I sincerely believe that my lack of injury over the last 94,000 miles can be attributed to the fact that I rotate my running shoes every day


  15. I don't think we are evolving at all, but have been going through a trial and error phase.

  16. I think foot strike makesw a different. My husband use to wear some nice, cushy running shoes, and hurt all the time and had issues with ITband and knees. He has switched to the new Altra running shoe that has a zero drop heel and he can run with out pain and recovers much faster. The shoe has been forcing him to strike mid-foot, where as before he was a serious heel striker. I'm a believer.

  17. Soooooo


    On the shoe thing . . .when I think about it my head hurts.

    so I just shuddup and run. like that? Like that? What I WON the shoes?!? ;)

  18. I am heartbroken I can't take the survey because I'm 52! Oh well I feel 50.

    Everyone is different and different things work for each of us. I am constantly tweeking my workouts, stretching routine, shoes, rest, etc, in an effort to keep on the road.

    Bottom line, there is no one answer that works for all of us. Trial, error and experience.

  19. I switched to minimalist shoes long enough to tweak my form and then went back to my Mizuno Wave Riders (I could never run that fast in low heel drop shoes and got tired of being slow). My improvement in form has made a huge impact on how far I can run, how fast, and how easily I recover.

  20. I had tried to enter into the study when you first posted this blog. I commented that I was upset that women over 50 could not enter the study. I just finished a triathlon in TX last weekend (something to do on my 54th birthday) - there were 25 women over 50 who participated while there were only 2 in the male 20-24age group. There are a lot more fit women runners who are staying active into their 50's and 60's. I think running has a lot to do with keeping it. Besides all of this - I agreen that the injuries come from training wrong- too much too fast. We experienced runners listen to our bodies and take it slow and stop when we are in pain or injured (usually).

  21. Great post!

    I believe that form definitely influences injury rates, but I think it's so individualized that it's impossible to say that barefoot or heelstrike is best/worst. Most likely it has to do with the runner and how he/she uses the natural mechanics of his/her form.

    That said, I think the biggest cause of injury is running on hard surfaces. Barefoot runners point to the natural tendency to run on the balls of the feet but few mention that from an evolutionary point of view, humans are geared for running over plains and softer surfaces. Regardless of the shoe, our bodies aren't meant to pound away on the pavement mile after mile, week after week.

    It's no surprise that so many of us end up injured. What's surprising is that we are so surprised. It's kind of like: Okay, we run 40-60 miles a week on hard surfaces for years and truly expect our bodies to absorb the impact?


  22. I've only been running a year but I do think foot strike makes a difference. I did a ChiRunning workshop and I think it's helped a lot. I also think the combination of the Chi and shifting (slowly!) to a minimalist shoe has been a great fit. That being said I'm still battling some knee issues, but that's where my strength training needs to improve. It's too easy to get caught up in trends, people have to find what works for them and stick to it!

    Psyched about winning the Saucony's - emailing you now!

  23. I was one of the ones requesting a re-post, so I really appreciate it! Especially since this phenomenon fascinates me so much. I had a lot of knee problems when I first started running...they went away slowly as I trained, but came back every once in awhile, along with hip, shin, ankle and foot pains. Recently with all the hullaballoo I've switched from my Asics Cumulus to Newton Lady Isaacs trainers. I've also paid close attention to short mid/forefoot strikes...RARELY heel striking. And I HAVE noticed a difference. I've also been building some sweet shin muscles in these bad boys!

    I think you're right...nothing is perfect for everyone. I think getting a healthy stride and training slowly is definitely key, but the shoes may or may not have anything to do with this :)

  24. Injuries can definitely happen if you don't use the right shoes while running. I suggest you buy the best to avoid any foot problems.

    foot doctor