Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Running shoes:Buyer beware!!

Seems consumers need to be more aware when buying running shoes. Scientific studies have shown sport shoes are prescribed and sold with over-simplistic claims not based on independent evidence. Injury prevention or comfort are not always the outcome from expensive purchases. Three dimensional analysis of movement (biomechanics) is complex and difficult to comprehend without considerable study, gait studies and computer analysis do help considerably but the data needs to be carefully interpreted. Laden with nomenclature, sports science is easily manipulated for market over-hype in a lexicon filled with jargonese and ill prepared shop assistants, not always able to decipher. Consumer beware!

Findings from independent studies support running shoes are less likely to prevent injury, and in some cases, can contribute to it. Hence, footwear companies are now shying away from overhype. Fallacious marketing claims of comfort and injury prevention are quickly discovered as recent high profile court case findings have shown. Manufacturers, keen to maintain their reputations and sales, are now more guarded but still prone to pander to the ill-informed. Serious runners are usually well read and often brand loyal, rarely changing style on a whim. So it appears the less well informed are the most prone to be influenced by glib tongued marketing jobbledegook.

Running shoes are marketed in four different types:

Motion control shoes are rigid for support and leverage. These shoes tend to be heavier than the more fashionable, lightweight runners.

Stability shoes are recommended for unstable (hypermobile) feet that roll inward when weight bearing. These usually include all the whizz bang biomechanical controls.

Cushioned shoes give protection and general comfort to the stable foot.

Minimalist/Barefoot shoes are novel foot shaped shoes with minimal protection and favoured by the faddists

Most stores dedicated to just running shoes have trained staff to help customers with fitting and style choices etc. The best outlets engage assistants with a working knowledge of sport science who can match stock to customer goals and training intensity etc. High street sports outlets on the other hand purvey popular brands promoting the latest releases at the front of the store. New models date quickly with on average a shelf life of three months. These stores do carry a limited range of popular evergreens which are often on display at the back of the store or on request. Shop assistants are usually enthusiastic but not always expert and rely heavily on fitting paraphernalia such as computer aids. Commercial software is written to move manufacturers’ stock and is not always a true independent indicator of the collected data.

All experts agree fit and comfort are key to proper shoe fitting. Price and make alone are not the best criteria, to buy shoes. Professional endorsements, marketing rhetoric and personal recommendations need to be taken with a pinch of salt when shopping for running.

Athletic Shoes American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeon's athletic fitting guide
Ryan MB, Valiant GA, McDonald K, Taunton JE. (2011) The effect of three different levels of footwear stability on pain outcomes in women runners: a randomised control trial. Br J Sports Med. 2011 Jul;45(9):715-21. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2009.069849. Epub 2010 Jun 27.


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