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Spend Less Time on Injury: Focus on Your Running Shoes

May 5, 2022

by Tony Heywood PT, MPT | Ahwatukee Location

Many runners think the best way to avoid time spent on injury recovery is to invest in a high-dollar shoe that a close friend or running guru has recommended to them. Often, that means buying the newest “it” shoe. Roll bars, thrust enhancers, and microchips: the running industry wants us to think that their new technology will prevent injury or make us faster. In fact, they’re counting on it.

Why Are There So Many Running Injuries?

As of 2019 the U.S. sports shoe revenue amounted to about 14 billion U.S. dollars and is set to increase to over 18 billion dollars by 2025, so it looks like the marketing is working. However, despite these claims proclaiming the technology is the best ever, 65 to 80 percent of all runners suffer an injury each year. If the technology is improving in running shoes then why is there such a high number of injuries each year?

Before the invention of the modern running shoe in 1972, runners needed and had strong feet because they would run in thin-soled shoes. As you can guess, the strength in their feet resulted in a lower rate of injuries than what we see today. “A lot of foot and knee injuries plaguing us are by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate and give us knee problems,” says Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a professor at Harvard University.

Cushy Shoes Aren’t Better

Not convinced? Did you know that an arch is one of the strongest weight-bearing designs ever invented? Guess what? Your foot’s centerpiece is the arch and it gets its strength by applying force from the top-down, not from underneath. So, when you wear a cushy shoe, you are actually weakening the foot. A weak foot means an increased chance of injury.

Of course, the shoe companies wouldn’t want you to know that. As a runner myself, and after seeing many runners at the clinic, I can safely say there are no shoes that are the best because each person is different. For example, I don’t do well in Nike or New Balance shoes, but I’ve seen other runners who prefer these brands. Furthermore, never assume the shoe with the higher price tag is the better shoe.

Line up of runners in track field.

Shopping for Your Shoe

When shopping for running shoes, don’t always settle for a big box store. Instead, check out a local running shoe store. The big box stores don’t have the knowledge that your local running store has. We recommend SOLE SPORT. This locally-owned shop features a runner-hobbyist sales staff that can offer first-hand advice and fit you with proper shoes. Additionally, they have a great return policy; they want you to be happy with your shoes.

Young woman looking through shoe store.

The Secret to My Success

In my years of running 5ks to marathons, I’ve found a practice that helps me reduce the time I spend on injury recovery: getting three pairs of shoes and often rotating which pair I wear each time I run. I mark the shoes with a sharpie “1,” “2,” or “3” so I can keep them in order. Even if you are using the same model of shoes for all three pairs, each shoe can be made just a little differently. This difference will put your foot in different positions every time you run in a different pair, reducing the pounding on the same part of your foot because of the slight variation. While this practice will cost you a little more upfront, in the long run, your shoes will last longer and most importantly it can help prevent injury.

Come in and see us if you’re suffering from an injury or you’re looking to reduce the time you spend on injury recovery. We’d love to see you and are here to help. Contact us to schedule an appointment!

About the author:

Tony has been a physical therapist in Arizona for 18 years and has been with Foothills since 2004. He has worked in many settings in his career including outpatient, aquatic, sports medicine, and orthopedic therapy. Tony’s goal as a therapist is to help patients get back to their active lifestyles. He enjoys sports and use to race motocross in his younger years, but unfortunately had to retire due to injuries. In search of a new hobby, Tony began running with his wife and eventually signed up for his first half marathon. Tony fell in love with training, learning, and racing. He ran his first half marathon in 1hr 50 mins and four years later had his personal best at 1hr 19mins and qualified for the NY Marathon.

Tony Heywood

by Tony Heywood
PT, MPT | Ahwatukee Location

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