Ask Dr. Scofield: Guidelines For Transitioning To A New Running Shoe
Runners swear by their shoes, and for good reason. The type of shoe a runner wears may affect performance, and can make a difference between a running career marked by victories—or by repeated injuries.
“Running is a very high injury sport,” says Dr. Scofield. “About a quarter of runners who sign up for marathons don’t show up at the start line. During my sports medicine fellowship, we did a study of people who registered, but did not show up, for the Twin Cities Marathon. Of those, 67 percent, or about two-thirds, were unable to compete due to an injury in their training process.
Incidence of runner injury is much higher than it is for cyclists, swimmers, or basketball players. “There’s something about the impact of running that makes runners more prone to injuries, chronic tendonopathies, and stress fractures,” says Dr. Scofield. “Most injuries are the result of training error, or to the mechanics of how someone runs—but the type of running shoe you wear can make a difference.”
There are a variety of running shoe styles available, and Dr. Scofield assesses them based on whether they have a high or low “heel to toe drop.” Traditional highly cushioned shoes have a higher heel to toe drop; minimalist shoes with a flat sole have a low heel to toe drop.
“The shoe you choose should be tailored to your physical condition, and any injuries you might have,” explains Dr. Scofield. “As a runner, I have a specific type of Achilles tendonopathy that doesn’t do well in a flat running shoe with little or no cushion. I run in light trainers that have a fairly high heel to toe drop. I’ve tried to transition to a trainer with a lower heel to toe drop, but this causes problems for my insertional Achilles tendonopathy, and makes it harder for me to wear lighter shoes.”
Dr. Scofield explains that for other conditions like runners knee, or patella femoral pain syndrome (one of the most common runners problems), a lighter shoe with a lower heel can be beneficial. “A shoe with a lower heel can take some of the stress off the knees, especially if these runners also focus on moving to more of a midstrike pattern while increasing their cadence. The key is to transition to a new shoe very gradually.”
When one of Dr. Scofield’s patients is going to change into a shoe that is significantly different, he has them run for a minute in their new shoes, walk for a minute, and repeat for about 5 minutes. Then, they change back into the old shoes for the rest of the workout. “The next day,” says Dr. Scofield, “we increase the initial period in the new shoe slightly, so that we are gradually increasing the total amount of time a patient spends in the new shoe.”
When you choose a running shoe that supports your physical condition and transition into your new shoes gradually, you can maximize your running performance, and minimize the risk of injury.
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