A new study suggests a link between stability running shoes (shoes with a medial post) and shin splints. Many runners with low arches believe that their feet are too weak for running, this is why they turn to medial stability running shoes for injury prevention. Many new forefoot runners with low arches have the same concerns, and they too believe that motion control footwear will provide adequate impact absorption than minimalist running shoes.
Why Medial Stability Running Shoes Are A Bad Idea
What is the purpose of medial stability running shoes? These shoes are designed to control excessive rearfoot movements during runnng and are often prescribed to runners with low arches. Why are low arches problematic for running? Apparently, low arches are indicative of weak foot musculature whereby poor foot strength makes it challenging for excessive rearfoot movements to be controlled during running.
Researchers however, are just finding out that rearfoot movements differ between heel strike running and forefoot strike running and that forefoot runners, even those with low arches, may not need medial stability running shoes because forefoot striking allows for greater mechanical control of rearfoot motions as compared with heel strike running.
In fact, forefoot running in motion control shoes for low archers may increase the risk of injury as one study found that not only did motion control shoes fail to reduce peak tibial accelerations, they also prevented foot arch strengthening.
- A study by Bulter et al., (2006) found that even though motion control shoes were effective in restricting rearfoot movements in forefoot runners, the shoes failed to reduce peak tibial acceleration regardless of arch type, suggesting that forefoot runners with high or low arched feet may be at risk of shin injuries if they run in motion control footwear.
Again, forefoot runners can do without pronation shoe wear because of the way the arch loads at touchdown which promotes arch strength and therefore improves arch height in those with lower arches. And remember, an increase in arch height is indicative of an increase in foot strength -this is why rearfoot movements in forefoot running are better controlled.
The Take Home Message
Evidence like this adds doubt to the notion that motion control shoes work and the more we learn about motion control shoes, the more we realize just how unstable the shod environment is for runners.
Forefoot running seems to kill two birds with one stone in that it naturally limits unwanted rearfoot movements and gradually transforms a weak, low arch to a strong, higher arch, but only if the correct shoe is worn, a zero-drop minimalist shoe (shown below) with no arch or control features.
- How the musculoskeletal system manages impact in heel strike and forefoot strike running
- More shoe cushioning takes more energy for running
- Running on a treadmill – good or bad?
- Why heel strike runners get shin injuries
Butler, RJ., Davis, IS and Hamill, J. Interaction of arch type and footwear on running mechanics. Amer J Sports Med, 2006; 34(12):1998-2005.
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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