Safe Running Shoes are the Cheapest, According to Study

In my opinion, safe running shoes are barefoot-inspired, but one study found that cheaper running shoes are safe for runners, too. In fact, they are safer than expensive, high-tech running shoes.

With that in mind, when it comes to forefoot running, be weary on purchasing expensive running shoes. But, what’s the overall problem with expensive running shoes?


Safe Running Shoes are the Cheapest, According to Study
High priced running shoes doesn’t ensure better protection.

Safe Running Shoes are the Cheapest, According to Study

Running shoes, in general, are founded on a counter-intuitive quirk: the more money you pay for your shoes, the more protection you’ll receive when running. But, a study by Clinghan et al. found that the under-heel cushioning of expensive running shoes deteriorated faster than that of cheaper running shoes.

Even more bizarre, the researchers found that the expensive running shoes had better cushioning under the forefoot rather than under the heel –another counter-intuitive quirk because most running shoes encourage a heel strike landing during, therefore maximizing under-heel protection should be a major priority. Why?

  • The highest amount of impact generated during running is at heel strike where a rapid heel strike transient is produced and converts into a shock-wave at such a high intensity that it damages the micro-composition of the muscles and tendons of the leg.

This is why under-heel cushioning is vital to runners who heel strike.

The researchers also found that price was not related to cushioning, meaning that expensive running shoes were not associated with more cushioning and cheap running shoes were not associated with less cushioning.

Another big finding was the researchers discovered that plantar pressure was lower in runners who wore low to medium priced running shoes.

Therefore, cheaper running shoes not only provided as much protection as the expensive ones, cheap running shoes actually provided more!

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Injuries

A multitude of past studies have found that expensive running shoes were directly related to higher incidences of running-related injury. This is because expensive running shoes typically have more ‘advanced shoe technology’ and cushioning whereby shoe cushioning has been found, over and over again, to kick-start overuse injury in runners.

In addition to this problem, consumers of cushioned running shoes carry the pre-existing belief that more expensive running shoes offers more protection. Yet, the current study, in addition to earlier reports, forms a cloud of inherent uncertainty making it difficult to characterize expensive running shoes as safe.

Forefoot Striking is All You Need

Forefoot runners don’t need shoes, which is why barefoot runners run without pain and injury. The reason forefoot running is incredibly satisfying from an injury prevention standpoint is that it eliminates the heel strike transient and dramatically reduces other harsh impact variables associated with heel strike running.

Don’t believe me? Read why landing with a forefoot strike provides more impact protection than a running shoe.

If you prefer not to run barefoot, at least wear running shoes that feel like you are barefoot. Click here to read my reviews on barefoot like running shoes that will help you maintain your forefoot strike!


More From Run Forefoot:

Proprioception – Understand why proprioception is needed to ensure good form and less impact during running.

Ankle Dorisflexion – Find out how ankle dorsiflexion at touchdown is the main reason heel strike runners get shin splints.

Runners Knee Prevention – Learn how to avoid the dreaded runners knee by landing on your forefoot.

Low Impact in Forefoot Running – Find out how the Achilles tendon is a better impact absorber in forefoot running than in heel strike running.


Clinghan et al. Do you get value for money when you buy an expensive pair of running shoes? Br J Sports Med, 2008; 42:189-93.

Gross TS, Bunch RP. Material moderation of plantar impact stress. Med Sci Sports Exer 1989;21:619-24.

Hamill J, Bates BT. A kinetic evaluation of the effects of in-vivo loading on running shoes. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 1988;10:47-53.

Marti B. Relationship between running injuries and running shoes – Results of a study of 5000 participants of a 16-km run – The May 1984 Berne “Grand Prix”. In: Segesser B, Pforringer W, eds. The shoe in sport. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1989: 256-65.

Robbins SE and Waked E. Hazard of deceptive advertising of athletic footwear. Br J Sports Med, 1997; 31:299-303.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

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.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!


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