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Running trainers - lets see what the science says....

The running trainer market can be overwhelming to most who enjoy recreational running. Technical terms such as 'pronation control', 'impact force' and 'comfort filter' can be very confusing to the general public, so how do you know what trainer to buy?

Many runners seek health professional advice regarding footwear, primarily to reduce the risk of injury. Many runners and health professionals have ideas about what footwear may be appropriate to someone, but is this advice evidence based?

Based on current evidence, the scientifically supported general recommendation for runners is to choose a trainer that is the lightest and most comfortable with the least amount of pronation control technology. Reducing the weight of a shoe appears to be the only feature that produces consistent results, that is, reduced energetic costs. Previous thinking was that pronation control technology reduced the risk of injury, but current evidence says that this does not seem to be the case.

When choosing a trainer it is important to consider the individual's task demands and goals. Do they run long distance, cross country or perform more speed work? Are they road os trail runners?

Shoes with a greater midsole thickness may provide more cushioning but it increases the distance between the foot and the ground posing a risk to ankle sprain or tendinitis. Minimalist shoes increases the strain on posterior leg musculature, so those with a history of tendinitis may not fare so well. New midsole foam material, like the one found in the Nike Vaporfly, influences mechanical work and power at the ankle. Runners with acute Achilles tendinitis may benefit in the short-term with this technology, but long-term use may degrade Achilles tendon stiffness and its ability to withstand strain. For those with Achilles tendinopathy, It would be advisable to race with these shoes to optimise metabolic cost gains but to train with a different foam to build or maintain tendon stiffness.

Bottom line is we are all different. We have diverse anatomy, and very varied running techniques so there most definitely is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is important to consider yourself as an individual and be guided by what feels most comfortable.

Agresta, C. et al. (2022). Running injury paradigm and their influences on footwear design features and runner assessment methods: A focused review to advance evidence-based practice for running medicine clinicians. Front. Sports. Act. Living. 4: 815675.


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