Are your shoes causing running injuries?

Author: By Steve “The Footman” Manning Founder of intrain  

Seven Tips to Keep ‘Healthy’ Shoes

  1. Record when you purchased your shoes
  2. Record your shoe kilometres
  3. Check your shoes regularly
  4. Do the “Dead shoe test”   (as seen in the image)
  5. Wear two different types of shoes
  6. Let your feet choose the best shoe
  7. Get the best advice from the running shoe experts at intraining

 

Read more below to ensure your shoes aren’t causing running injuries. The most common reason for a disruption to your training is an injury.  The most common risk factor in running injuries are training errors.  However, there are a number of other risk factors including:

  1. Structural abnormalities
  2. Pathological gait patterns
  3. A change in running terrain
  4. Trauma and…
  5. Footwear!  

Many people in the running community latch on to one of these factors as if that is the only way to avoid injury.  All you need to do to run injury free is to change to a midfoot strike (wrong) or go to a minimalist shoe (wrong again) or stretch more (increases risk of injury) or run on a softer surface (nope) or improve your core stability (if only that were true).  

The evidence for all of these risks factors is sketchy but that is mostly because runners might look the same but are actually very different.  

Your structure determines the best way to run and the best shoe to wear and even the best way to train.  While genetics is probably the major variable in this, training can change some structural factors as you improve strength and gravitate towards your ideal structural balance.

Consistent, progressive and balanced training more than any other factor will reduce your risk of injury.  However, that does not mean that you should not create strategies to deal with the other risk factors.  These strategies will have different levels of importance for each runner.

One of the key avoidable risk factors for running injuries is wearing worn-out shoes.

Running is a relatively cheap sport.  A pair of good quality running shoes will cost a bit over $200 and will last around 600 to 800km.  That comes out to about 25 cents per kilometre or $2.50 per hour if you run at 6 minutes per kilometre.

The problem with knowing when your shoes are dead is that it is hard to tell the difference from one day to the next.  Looking at the outsole is not a good indicator of shoe wear for most people.  The part of the shoe that usually wears out first is the midsole in the forefoot of the shoe.  By the time you wear through the outsole or uppers, the midsole has usually been dead for a few months.

The midsole is where the cushioning is created.  As midsoles age, they lose their resistance to compression and go soft.  This lack of resistance means they can bottom out at the same time as the softness reduces your feel for the ground.  Together these two things result in an increase in impact forces that go up to your legs.  This increase in stress is thought to then increase the risk of something breaking down.

So what can you do to keep track of your shoe wear and reduce footwear related injury risk?  Here are some strategies to make sure your running shoes are not contributing to your injuries.

Seven Tips to Keep ‘Healthy’ Shoes Explained

  1. Record when you purchased your shoes:
    • At intraining, we keep a record of your shoe purchases. You can always call and ask when you last purchased your shoes.  You can also write the date of your purchase underneath the insole or on the side of the midsole.  It is then just a matter of multiplying your average weekly kilometres by how many weeks you have had your shoes.  For example, if you run 40km a week then you will get to 800km in 20 weeks or less than 5 months
  2.  Record your shoe mileage:
    • How many kilometres has your shoe done?  
    • Apps like Strava allow you to record which shoe you ran in for a session.  They then give you a running tally of how many kilometres a shoe has done.  You can also set up an alarm system where Strava will let you know when a shoe has met a particular mileage mark.  Alternatively, you can keep a running tally on a spreadsheet and start to check your shoes more regularly when they have reached 500km.
  3. Check your shoes regularly:
    • The best way to check if your shoes are dead is to keep track of how they feel in training.  Can you start to feel rocks through the midsole or does it feel like the road has become harder?  Have your feet or legs been getting sore after a run?  Do you feel like you are unstable in the shoes?  All of these things may be an indication that it is time to retire a shoe.
  4. The dead shoe test:
    • The main way we check in our clinic or in the store for the shoes wear is by doing the dead shoe test.  Yes, this is a real thing!!
    • Resistance is cushioning and a new shoe will resist compression and be hard to bend.  .  Since the forefoot is the thinnest part of the midsole it is usually the first to break down.  If you bend the shoe’s forefoot the opposite way it normally bends when you are running, then it should have good resistance if the cushioning is still intact.  If you can touch the toe to the heel then your shoe is truly ‘dead’.  You need to change it ASAP!!
    • This test does not work for every shoe as racing shoes may have this flexibility from the start.  Carbon fibre plates and maximal stack height midsoles may have this resistance even when worn out.
  5. Alternate between two pair of shoes.
    • It can be hard to tell that a shoe has worn out from one day to the next.  One way of reducing this risk is by having two pair of shoes that you alternate between runs.  When you find that you no longer want to run in one pair they are probably worn out.

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