How important are the running shoes ?

I started running the local 5k park run this year and my times came down seemingly effortlessly from 23 min to 21 min.

Time for the push to get into the 20's then minor injury after minor injury. I have not been able to run without pain for about 4 months now. I've totally rested for about 3 weeks but when i return to running so do the injuries. I currently have a slight hamstring pull, a groin strain, shin splints and calf and shin muscle pain. I am running only a painful 5 miles a week(sometimes nil) plus the parkrun because of the injuries. My running shoes are the standard nike, reebok bought on price but they are comfortable. Do running shoes make a difference in preventing injury or is it a marketing ploy. I've read that a lot of the advice about running shoes come from manufacturers who want you to buy expensive and often.


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17 Replies

  • Are you stretching properly after warming up but before running?

  • I don't do any stretching due to the hamstring and groin strains. I always start running at a gentle pace before reaching my natural pace. I would like to do some stretching as i see a lot of the other runners warming up this way but it pulls on the existing injuries.#

  • I wouldn't have even started running without gait analysis. Our son is an elite runner and took me to Runners Needs. I had no choice in the matter!! My shoes are superb I feel as though I'm running in perfectly fitting slippers! And they were in a sale too!

  • I must admit i'm a novice and had never heard of gait analysis. The question is can changing the comfortable running shoes i'm wearing at the moment to a pair which the gait analysis recommends for me - will this help prevent the continual injuries and pulls. It's not like i'm a finely tuned athlete where you body is performing at it's peak all the time and is susceptible to injuries.

  • TL;DR: Get your gait checked!

    When I started running 18 months ago, I bought a pair of NIke trainers from SportsDirect for £30. I only bought them because of the price. I ran steadily in those for about 8 months but when I began to push my times and myself, I started getting injuries, strains, pains etc.

    Last Spring, I decided to get my gait checked. It turned out I was over-pronating which meant I was putting stress on my knees, hips and ankles as I ran. They fitted me in some supportive Adidas trainers and I've been injury free since!

    The gait analysis is absolutely essential. Even if it's just to see how you run. There's never any pressure to buy trainers. I'd get it checked just for the video analysis, the technology is very good these days. The guy in the shop told me that the ideal goal is to be running neutral trainers which is pretty much bare-foot (Google vibram five-fingers). That's how we're designed to do it but to get to that point, our feet, ankles & body need to be persuaded to run in that fashion.

    Because I over-pronate, he put me in supportive runners and said when I return next year, the trainers I've had this year would have corrected my over-pronation so I can then get some more balanced runners and then in a year or two, move onto neutral runners.

    Even though your current trainers are perfectly comfortable, they may not be in line with how your body performs whilst running, putting strain on certain areas, especially now you're pushing for a sub 21minute 5k (btw, you're a maachiiiine!). Get your gait checked, get some decent runners and run easy :)

  • Thanks - an excellent post. It looks like you've been there as well. My thoughts are that the best running shoes to avoid injury is bare-foot, its the shoes which complicate matters. It does sound if the shoes are not fitted for your running style then eventually you will be inviting continuous injuries.

  • I have done a lot of research on purchasing running shoes and found out that what were told in 99% of shops and websites is poppycock!! Structured and support shoes can actually do you more damage as they're trying to make your foot do something it doesn't want to! I am an 'over pronater' but have actually went for Puma FAAS 500, this is a minimal shoe but still has a bit of a heel to encourage you to land on your mid/front of foot. Making the change to the front of my foot was painful initially but feels way more natural now...try running barefoot next time you're getting changed, you see where your foot lands!?

    When your Nike Free or Puma has worn out buy the next ones with slightly less heel ie Puma 400 or 300. Over pronating is not wrong and does not need corrected!

  • Different strokes, of course. I started in cheap trainers which were so uncomfortable I ended up running in canvas daps. Which were ok, but I worried they might not take me all the way to W9. Then when I re-started the programme I was lucky enough to get hold of a pair of vibrams from a discount site. I like them. I will say the fitting was tricky, as I bought online I sent back 2 pairs before I got ones I was happy with. Also, for the first couple of weeks my ankles really ached! I suspect with barefoot shoes the impact is more equally spread through all the joints of the leg, whereas with proper trainers it is more concentrated in the knees. So it depends what suits you best.

  • Personally, I just feel more confident that any aches and pains are not being caused by the wrong shoes...I am only week 4, so not a runner yet, but have had it drummed into me about the importance of proper shoes. Before i got them, I thought they would make my runs easier (!!!!) because they would support me more, spring more etc ...yeah I know it was daft! My first run was a sore disappointment, they were harder to run in because they had less rebound! I wasn't a happy bunny, but did persevere and am now much more realistic about what a shoe can do....and what they can do is give me peace of mind that I am less likely to injure myself because I am better supported. HTH x

  • I had terrible problems with my knees untill I had gait analysis done, sure enough I was wearing the wrong trainers, now with the right running shoes my knees have been (touch wood) pain free.

    Some places will do free analysis so from that you could work out whether that's a contributing factor. Another posibility is that the shoes you have may have worn out, the normal life for a running shoe is around 500 miles.

  • I think i've bought into the gait assessment. I've done some research on the interweb and checked all my old trainers whether they have been used for running, other sports or simply day to day use and there just doesn't not seem to be a consistent pattern of excessive wear in any one area. Some wear more on the inner heel others on the outer heel. Some have even wear through out the sole so i'm assuming that the different style of shoe does effect how you run.

  • I don't really know whether my expensive Brooks (bought on graduation) are better than the Aldi trainers that I used for the 9 weeks before - they both seem comfortable but the Brooks cost about 10 times as much as the Aldi pair!

    However, given that injury is so dispiriting and frustrating, I didn't want to increase my chances of picking up an injury, so I bought into the whole gait analysis/ expensive trainers thing. And, after 7 months, I have only had hamstring problems (which can't be blamed on gait or trainers) so for me it has been worth it.

  • I hadn't been a runner at all pre C25K, but like many others, there were usually a couple of pairs of trainers in my wardrobe for casual walking/wearing. After about wk3 I started getting painful knees and sometimes hips too. Upon advice from forum members I succumbed to gait analysis and discovered all sorts of info about the how's and why's of foot activity and health ... And more especially why my bog-standard trainers were not the best things for my new running activities. I too bought Brooks shoes - they weren't cheap. However, at SweatShop where I went, I didn't at any stage feel I was being pressured, given marketing 'lines', 'sold a pup' or otherwise in receipt of salesman hype. I was allowed to try over a dozen different shoes with some customised insoles before I decided on a pair ... And was then told I could try them for up to 30 days and still return them if unsuitable - dirt, mud an' all!!!

    I have since then (Feb) completed C25K and continued to run about 3 times a week, in all weathers and on all sorts of different surfaces. I haven't had foot or leg pain in all that time.

    Hope this helps? Cheers, Linda :)

  • thanks - sounds like an endorsement.

  • I run in my old DIY/decorating trainers which are a pair of old worn out adidas sambas. I completed week 5 run 3 last Saturday with no issues. Perhaps the only niggly pain I get is my left heel, but since I stretch this out prior to running and on my off days it doesn't give me a great deal of problem.

    Shoe science, design, geometry and materials etc. do appear to be a hot subject; I did read an article where one academics research suggested a really basic, virtually non existent sole was better than the fancier footwear varieties available. Who knows, but my crumby DIY, paint splattered trust sambas are working a treat for me.

  • The marketing boys do seem to suggest the most expensive trainers. It is a fact that the majority of world class long distance runners from the poverty areas of Africa did their running in their childhood and youth either barefoot or whatever footwear they could find. I remember Zola Budd smashing world records running barefoot. As we were raised to wear shoes perhaps we have become accustomed to footwear perhaps anything out of tilt in the shoe precipitates injury.

  • Exactly this - years of wearing shoes and trainers in the developed world has left our feet & ankles reliant on that support. In poverty areas of Africa where the majority of activity is done bare foot, it's the norm.

    As my comment above mentioned, the ideal goal is barefoot running as that is what Humans have been designed for. I for one, wouldn't run barefoot in London though so eventually I want to get down to some almost 'plimsole' type shoe. enough of a solid sole not to puncture on nails or other sharp objects, but less shoe, if that makes *any* sense!

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