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Most important feature of running shoes: Comfort

runningDo you overpronate? Do you buy stability running shoes? Or cushioning, or motion control? When you go into a sneaker specialty store, are you put through a series of fancy, electronic measuring gizmos to determine which shoe is best for your gait?

Does any of that stuff really matter? A new study says no.

The running industry has recently thrived and no one has benefitted more than the sneaker manufacturers, who have done a masterful job of entering into the consumer market terms like “motion control” and “severe overpronator.” Specialty sneakers that fit the mold of each type of runner supposedly help to reduce injuries.

However, a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that the rate of such injuries has not changed in 30 years. In fact, researchers determined that the most important factor in determining the best running shoe is not which is best for your gait, but, rather, which shoe is most comfortable.

“Comfort is difficult to define and to quantify” wrote the authors led by Dr. Benno Nigg, professor of kinesiology at the University of Calgary in Canada. “However, it seems that shoe comfort is important for running injuries as well as running performance.”

One factor thought to most impact runners and their footwear is pronation, the amount your foot rolls inward after initial impact. Researchers studied 1,000 runners with different levels of pronation, gave them all the same running shoes, and followed them for a year.

Those with no or minimal pronation were injured at a higher rate than the runners with moderate to severe overpronation. Researchers determined there was no association between pronation and injury. In fact, according to the authors, “a pronated foot position is, if anything, an advantage with respect to running injuries.”

The more important factor is comfort. According to Dr. Nigg, our bodies are “very good judges” of what is best us and how we should move and run. “When we ignore or fight our bodies’ natural movement pattern,” Dr. Nigg told the New York Times, “such as by trying to control pronation, the risk of injury rises.”

-Brad Broker

One comment

  1. I believe in comfort over style. After all, health is all that matters. Really good article.

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