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Since receiving his Masters of Science in physical therapy, Ben Johnson has gained years of experience with outpatient PT and rehabilitating musculoskeletal injuries. He is here today to reveal a surprising source of many runners’ injuries– their shoes.

Running is an inherently demanding activity, especially in today’s society and environments. The repetitive, pounding nature of running mile after mile on concrete or asphalt can lead to a variety of injuries ranging from mild to debilitating.

Modern running shoes have come a long way in their design and philosophy since the first entry in the 20th century. Successful running shoe companies invest a significant amount of time in research, development, and engineering into the shoes they sell. Well, at least you hope that they do! There is now a wide variety of running shoes, both within a shoe company’s repertoire and when comparing a company’s product line to another.

This wide selection of footwear has both an upside and downside. As running shoes became more specifically engineered to accommodate more specific biomechanics, the consequence for making an incorrect choice also became more severe.

Selecting the proper shoe can make each mile a pleasant experience. However, many people and runners do not realize an improper shoe selection can lead to chronic ongoing pain and symptoms. In the absence of shoe choice correction, these problems will simply not go away.

When I see a patient with a running injury for the first time, I ask what shoes they run in, how long they have run in those shoes and what strategy they used when picking that running shoe. The variety of answers I get no longer surprises me. Here are a few common examples:

  • “I liked the color”
  • “My friend runs in these”
  • “They were on sale”
  • “I read about these in a running magazine”
  • “I heard this brand is a good brand”
  • “I have flat feet”
  • “I have high arches”
  • “I pronate A LOT”
  • “I supinate SO MUCH”
  • “The shoe salesman told me these shoes are right for me.”

As you may have figured out by now, these answers all represent an incorrect strategy when selecting a running shoe, but I can’t blame runners for these misconceptions. There is a tremendous amount of generic, inapplicable, and downright incorrect information regarding running shoes in mainstream media. The sources of this info may surprise innocent bystanders/runners—from “expert” blogs to advertisements to salesmen behind the counter, and even the most popular running magazines will sometimes offer advice that is nothing more than absolutely incorrect. So buyer, and runner, beware!

The good news is if one does make a mistake in running shoe selection and use, and ends up with an injury, ache or pain—help is nearby! A physical therapist can assess your specific biomechanics from heel strike to toe off and throughout the kinetic chain, identify “weak links” in your musculoskeletal system and facilitate a quick recovery from injury. They will educate the runner and establish an effective exercise routine to prevent injuries in the future. A physical therapist who understands the ins and outs of running biomechanics, injury prevention, and how a proper running shoe can assist runners in reaching their goals is available at your neighborhood Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy Clinic!