Are highly cushioned running shoes causing more running impact injuries?

Are highly cushioned running shoes causing more running impact injuries?

Training and repetitive running regimens are often blamed for running injuries.  In response to this, running shoe companies have developed many designs that increase cushioning or spread out the point of impact. Shoes like the Hoka brand do this effectively. Other shoes are designed to have you strike the ground with your mid foot, since a mid foot stride is considered less stressful on the legs, and helps you distribute shock from the ground up better.  Others have developed a more minimalist approach to running with shoes that offer a minimal amount of cushioning or none at all.

Conventional wisdom suggests that depending on the person, any of these approaches may work.   On the other hand, body styles vary widely so no one shoe fits all or benefits all. This is why there is no one shoe that all runners will agree on regarding fit, style and comfort.

A symmetrically built person is likely to distribute the forces of running better from side to side.  The pelvis is designed to absorb the shock from the legs and transmit the forces from the foot through the hips and into the upper body as we walk and run.

In many of us who are built asymmetrically, we may have accommodated to these asymmetries in ways that may actually cause an injury when we run.   The shoes we wear have cushioning that is believed to help us absorb the shock of running on pavement and different surfaces, but are they effective?

A recent study published in science reports is now suggesting that the spring mechanism of running which helps us avoid injury while running barefoot may be compromised by additional cushioning. Counter to conventional wisdom, the cushioning in a running shoes may result in an injury if this new studies findings are accurate.  Check this out

Running in highly cushioned shoes increases leg stiffness and amplifies impact loading
Juha-Pekka Kulmala, Jukka Kosonen, Jussi Nurminen & Janne Avela
Scientific Reports
volume 8, Article number: 17496 (2018)

Running shoe cushioning has become a standard method for managing impact loading and consequent injuries due to running. However, despite decades of shoe technology developments and the fact that shoes have become increasingly cushioned, aimed to ease the impact on runners’ legs, running injuries have not decreased. To better understand the shoe cushioning paradox, we examined impact loading and the spring-like mechanics of running in a conventional control running shoe and a highly cushioned maximalist shoe at two training speeds, 10 and 14.5 km/h. We found that highly cushioned maximalist shoes alter spring-like running mechanics and amplify rather than attenuate impact loading. This surprising outcome was more pronounced at fast running speed (14.5 km/h), where ground reaction force impact peak and loading rate were 10.7% and 12.3% greater, respectively, in the maximalist shoe compared to the conventional shoe, whereas only a slightly higher impact peak (6.4%) was found at the 10 km/h speed with the maximalist shoe. We attribute the greater impact loading with the maximalist shoes to stiffer leg during landing compared to that of running with the conventional shoes. These discoveries may explain why shoes with more cushioning do not protect against impact-related running injuries.

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