If you are truly trying to do the best by your feet, surely you would choose the best shoes when you are pounding the ground, or the court, or the treadmill. Wouldn’t you?
But what is ‘the best’?
And then, how much does it cost?
Well most of the opinion suggests you want a shoe that supports, and is specifically fitted for, your foot.
I believed this, until I read the books by Pete Egoscue which explained it quite simply.
If a shoe that supports your foot does its job then it replaces support that your muscles are meant to be providing.
Sure it may be more comfortable at the start, but in the long run it allows your own foot support to wilt away, leaving you MORE prone to problems than when you began.
Pete’s recommendation: wear at little shoe as possible, and get your foot aligned properly from head to toe. (For the first steps on how to do this see “Where is Your Pain?” at Pete’s website www.Egoscue.com or order his book Pain-Free.)
But that’s all nice theory.
Where is the research proof?
Well with all the money spent on shoes by consumers, health experts and shoe manufacturers, there should be a few good studies to turn to, right?
In their recently published study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based?” Dr Chris Richards, and his 2 co-authors reported that…
“Since the 1980s, distance running shoes with thick, heavily cushioned heels and features to control how much the heel rolls in, have been consistently recommended to runners who want to avoid injury,” Dr Richards said.
“We did not identify a single study that has attempted to measure the effect of this shoe type on either injury rates or performance.”
In fact Dr Richards is being kind in his paper. This is objective science after all.
But on a blog of his called “Barefoot versus the shoe” Dr Richards is more frank when he went directly to shoe companies to ask them for the evidence. His subsequent post is titled, “Is there a running shoe mafia?”
I have been busily contacting all the major shoe companies asking them to direct me to the evidence that their distance running shoes either prevent injuries or improve performance.
The most entertaining responses so far have been from Mizuno and Puma who both claimed that whether or not their running shoes prevent injuries or improve performance was a trade secret.
Refusing to tell consumers whether or not your product works is certainly a unique marketing ploy!
Unfortunately I would have to say hiding information it is NOT a unique marketing ploy.
I would say it is an extremely consistent and pervasive marketing ploy thoughout all health products and services in particular.
The end results of Dr Richard’s enquiries?
Number of major running shoe manufacturers contacted= 18
Number who have responded= 11
Number who have provided evidence that their running shoes decrease injury rates= 0
(Number of legal threats= 0)
Here is how Dr Richard sums up the published research on the lack of any studies on the health impacts of running shoes.
He says there are only two possible conclusions…
…1) the studies have not been done or 2) their results have been suppressed because they show that modern running shoes are either of no benefit or are in fact harmful. Only the shoe manufacturers know which of these is true.
We can only hope that an entire generation of runners have not been the unwitting victims of unethical corporate behaviour.
We have consistently seen how large corporations behave when their profits are threatened by the truth. Big Tobacco, the pharmaceutical industry and asbestos manufacturers come to mind as poignant examples.
Will the multinationals who perpetuate and feed on the myth of the modern running shoe be next?
Couldn’t have put it better myself.
My self help suggestion is to walk in bare feet as often as you can, and buy shoes that you are prepared to throw away when they start to get old. Continuing to use a worn shoe simply aggravates any misalignments you already have.
Or, if you want something more sophisticated check out this post here. Just the pictures of feet that have never had shoes on are amazing.
-Dr Martin Russell
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