When I first started forefoot running, I bought many minimalist shoes, especially those with cushioning, but I had the habit of wearing a different pair every day, or every other day. My legs were also sore. I decided to stick with one pair, and I decided on the Vibram KSO because I can feel the ground the most in them. Within days, my leg pain was much better. I believe that our feet are so sensitive, that they react differently in response to different footwear, and this reaction may affect muscle activity in the leg….but this is just my theory.
Altering between multiple pairs of running shoes frequently exposes the feet to different shoe materials. As a consequence, doing so may cause variations in repetitive external loading and landing strategies during running.
Avoid Altering Between Multiple Pairs of Running Shoes
Running shoe characteristics influence the magnitude and stresses applied to the body during running and also induces an alteration in running technique. This is because the neuromotor system is sensitive to different running shoe characteristics.
- The neuromotor system responds to different shoe materials by fluctuations in EMG activity and muscle fiber type, suggesting that exposure to different shoe materials causes a shift in muscle activity and fiber recruitment.
- During this time, the body is potentially vulnerable to injury if regular training volume is not reduced when a new running shoe is worn.
Altering between multiple pairs of running shoes also changes lower leg kinematics, too. A study by Rethnam and Makwana found that runners in newer running shoes had higher peak plantar pressures than older running shoes, suggesting that the foot/ankle complex is more vulnerable to injury when newer running shoes are being ‘broken in’.
The finding supports the common notion that breaking into new running shoes should be done slowly, with mild physical activity.
Who Needs Shoes Anyway?
Adapting to a new running shoe has its challenges. Fortunately, nature has devised other ways to make running safe, without the use of the standard running shoe.
Kong et al. found that as running shoe cushioning decreased, runners were more effective at managing external loads. In other words, impact did not increase with less protection. Evidently, this kind of exchange is seen in barefoot runners who utilize a forefoot strike landing to safely modulate forces applied to the body.
The Take Home Message
Adapting to a new shoe condition unceasingly triggers kinematic and mechanical changes which manifests as a distinct route to injury.
Moreover, no running shoe, regardless of manufacture and price, has ever been shown to prevent injuries, therefore advertising good protection is deceptive (Robbins and Waked 1997).
Most evidence also confirms that reduced cushioning is sufficient enough to keep runners running safe because minimalist conditions prompts adjustments in mechanics.
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Kong PW, Candelaria NG, Smith DR.Running in new and worn shoes: a comparison of three types of cushioning footwear. Br J Sports Med, 2009: 43: 745–749.
Lieberman DE, Venkadesan M, Werbel WA, Daoud AI, D’Andrea S, Davis IS, Mang’Eni RO, Pitsiladis Y. Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature, 2010: 463: 531–536.
Perl DP, Daoud AI, Lieberman DE. Effects of footwear and strike type on running economy. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2012: 44: 1335–1343.
Rethnam U, Makwana N. Are old running shoes detrimental to your feet? A pedobarographic study. BMC Res Notes, 2011: 4: 307.
Robbins SE and Waked E. Hazard of deceptive advertising of athletic footwear. Br J Sports Med, 1997; 31:299-303.
Wiegerinck JI, Boyd J, Yoder JC, Abbey AN, Nunley JA, Queen RM. Differences in plantar loading between training shoes and racing ﬂats at a self-selected running speed. Gait Posture, 2009: 29: 514–519.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
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