Running has become a very popular form of exercise over the last 50 years and it has been highly researched and many benefits are associated with running.

However, there are also running related injuries due to the repetitive impact while running. Running shoe technology has also shown major advances over the last 50 years. There have been phases ranging from minimalist footwear to maximalist footwear and everything in between. A lot of research has focused on the mechanics of running based on foot pronation/supination and heel strike vs forefoot strike. Some research has focused on muscles, fascia, circulation and bone health. Recently, there has been more research on running related injuries despite the advancement of technology and footwear. 

It has been assumed by many that using a highly cushioned shoe (maximalist shoe) reduces the impact of running more than a conventional support running shoe. Despite the development of more cushioned shoes intended to reduce the impact on legs, the rate of running related injuries has not decreased.  Recent research was conducted measuring impact forces during slow running and faster running in maximalist shoes versus conventional control running shoes. Interestingly, the impact forces measured in highly cushioned shoes was higher during fast running compared to slower running and higher when compared to conventional support running shoe.

As many as 56% of runners have reported running related injuries each year.

Most of these injuries are related to the impact and loading phase of the gait cycle. Researchers have sought to find what mechanisms are related to continued impact injuries despite added cushion to shoes. Previous research has studied the mechanics of running through the spring-mass model. This has found that the muscles of the leg function differently in how stiff the leg is dependent on the firmness of the surface. The body adjusts the stiffness of the legs to control the amount of spring that helps propel the body forward. It has been found that the body keeps the legs more stiff on softer surfaces and less stiff on firm surfaces to modulate the “spring in your step” to help the body be more efficient. This seems to apply to the amount of cushion in shoes as well. So the next time you are looking for more running shoes, you should at least consider enough cushion to be comfortable but not excessive cushion that could actually contribute to more impact related injuries through you body.

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