4 Reasons to Avoid Traditional Running Shoes

The injury rates associated with traditional running shoes are out of this world.

Robbins and Gouw (1991) summarized the data on the effects of traditional running shoes on injury prevention, and sadly, the researchers concluded the following:

  1. 4 Reason to Avoid Traditioal Running Shoes
    Traditional running shoes cause the injuries they are suppose to prevent!

    Runners who ran in expensive running shoes with supportive and corrective elements injured more than runners who preferred ‘cheap’ running shoes.

  2. To date, no running shoe manufacturer has been found to be superior to others (e.g Nike is no better than Reebok) with respects to injury incidences.
  3. Runners who preferred the same footwear brand injured more than runners with no brand loyalty.
  4. Runners who ran in a more current-design running shoe injured more compared with running shoes in use a decade earlier.

Running Shoes: Lies, All Lies?

Heel strike running caused by heeled running shoes
Traditional running shoes causes a runner to heel strike, a foot strike pattern that causes higher moments at the knee.

Safe and injury-free running begins at the footwear level. The flatter, the lighter the shoe, the better, whereas the standard running shoe –with thick heels– causes heel strike during running.

Conversely, in forefoot running, impact shocks are lower, impact transients are eliminated, and heel pressure is dramatically reduced compared to heel strike running. Thus, a heavy cushioned running shoe is not necessary because a forefoot strike (below right), if properly adapted, may be the best, and only protective barrier a runner needs.

What type of running shoes are best for forefoot running?
The best running shoes for running are barefoot like running shoes because they encourage a forefoot strike landing pattern, a less forceful foot strike pattern.

Furthermore, most barefoot runners forefoot strike and past reports have found that running-related injuries are rare in barefoot running populations.

Interestingly, researchers have also found that shod-runners who ran barefoot for the first time, did not produce greater mean impact, and in some reports, ran with less impact.

The name of the game in injury-free running may be to adopt barefoot running mechanics, and therefore, a forefoot strike running style. In addition, forefoot running shoes are minimalist running shoes which aim to encourage barefoot running mechanics, and are poised to be the next major breakthrough in health care in runners. Why?

Because the most obvious problem is the strong correlation of the amount of cushioning and supportive elements of a shoe with the persistently higher incidence of running-related injuries.

More From Run Forefoot:

Barefoot Running Improves Balance – Find out how running shoes destabilize mechanics and how barefoot running can easily help.

Running Shoes and Injuries – Find out why minimalist running shoes are associated with less injury compared to the traditional running shoe.

Femur Fracture – Find out how landing with a heel strike can essentially break the strongest bone in the body.

Running with Music – Did you know that runners run best when they hear a pattern? Find out why running with music is not such a bad thing after all.

Running Shoes – My reviews on the minimalist shoes I feel are best for forefoot running.


Clark, TE and Frederick, EC. (1982). Dynamic load displacement characteristics of various midsole materials.

Clark, TE., Frederick, EC., and Cooper, LB. (1982). The effects of shoe cushioning upon selected force and temporal parameters in running.

Clark, TE., Frederick, EC., and Cooper, LB. (1983). Effects of shoe cushioning upon ground reaction forces in running.

Marti, B. (1989). Relationship between running injuries and running shoes: The Shoe in Sport.

Nigg et al. (1986). Factors influencing kinetic and kinematic variables in running.

Robbins, SE and Gouw, GJ. (1991). Athletic footwear: unsafe due to perceptual illusions.

Bretta Riches

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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