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Flat running shoes fine for pronating novices, study finds

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June 20, 2013

A new study suggests novice runners should think twice before forking out for supportive r...

A new study suggests novice runners should think twice before forking out for supportive running shoes (Photo: Shutterstock)

Novice runners wearing ordinary, non-supportive running shoes are at no greater risk of injury, even if they pronate or supinate (that is, their feet roll inward or outward as they run) according to new research out of Aarhus University in Denmark. The researchers think that novice runners should instead think about their weight, training regime and old injuries as the predominate risks of injury.

PhD student Rasmus Ø. Nielsen and team tracked the progress of 927 healthy beginners for a full year. The group contained a variety of pronators and supinators, and all wore identical pairs of "neutral" running shoes. At the end of the year, 252 of the participants had sustained a running-related injury. The researchers concluded that after running the first 250 km, the risk of injury to runners is the same, regardless of pronation or supination. Further, the incidence rate of injury in pronating runners was markedly lower per 1,000 km run in pronators than in so-called neutrals.

"This is a controversial finding as it has been assumed for many years that it is injurious to run in shoes without the necessary support if you over/underpronate," Nielsen says.

What the research did not do was compare neutral running shoes with those which provide support to runners who have a tendency to roll their feet. They also did not tackle the question of whether supportive shoes should be used following a running injury.

"We still need to research the extent to which feet with extreme pronation are subject to a greater risk of running injury than feet with normal pronation," Nielsen added. The sample group turned out to contain fewer extreme pronators that was expected for its size.

Source: Aarhus University

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
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7 Comments

I've always found that running shoes encourage me to heel strike because it masks the striking forces you're sending through your legs. That's what caused my knee to hurt. I have slightly bowed legs and my feet pronate when I run, but I haven't had a problem running in any shoes since I started running correctly on the balls of my feet.

Steve Dahlheimer
20th June, 2013 @ 12:15 pm PDT

Another paper that makes no real contribution, your heading is misleading ....neutral shoes are not flat shoes..and the photo..jeez,

The first comment i read. Steve D...well, fanboy of a certain style, but happy for him if it helped him, but "correctly on the balls of my feet"will in no way work for most people.

Pronation and supination are normal motions, and don't mean automatic problems...but can be seen as risk factors that may need controlling..case by case basis vs sweeping generalisations

m8
20th June, 2013 @ 08:11 pm PDT

But then, with so many people getting hurt while jogging, why not choose an aerobic exercise that doesn't translate into injuries?

Freyr Gunnar
21st June, 2013 @ 01:42 am PDT

Bah whatevz. Proper running shoes cause me more injury than running barefoot or non-supportive shoes do.

Billy Butler
21st June, 2013 @ 02:39 am PDT

So many factors were left out of the study as described as to render it fairly useless. It did try to approach an interesting question and apparently produced at least one (statistically significant?) result - that of pronators having LESS injury than neutral. Would like to see more study in this field. Perhaps this can serve as at least a starting point.

longhawl
21st June, 2013 @ 09:48 am PDT

I worked in the running shoe business, placing thousands of people in shoes, giving advice... in 3+ years or retail hell. 29 Marathons are in my background, with a 3:26 personal best in 26.2 miles, in bad wornout shoes no less. If I knew what I know now, I might have hit a sub 3 hour marathon.

Just a few thoughts on this. I stepped away from running shoes that have medial, ( inside stiff support ) for correcting my medium pronation, after many many thousands of miles of running. Why? One, as this kind of shoe breaks down, it does so on the softer outside, causing a runner to eventually supinate, forcing the foot to endure high stress on the less substantial side of the foot. Mechanical efficiency is reduced, and injuries increase. In long distance running, this will cost you. Fortunately this is a gradual thing. Bad thing, is getting that new pair of shoes. Your body has gotten used to the gradual shift. Sudden changes can really mess you up!

Many people, ( me in the past ) will run a shoe well past retirement. Now I have boxes and boxes of free shoes given to me by vendors. No problem anymore, and I retired the marathon event, I think.

Supinaters, and there are more out there than is talked about, must stick to a neutral shoe and generally, they will tear them up on the outside.

What to do? My personal choice is the Asics Kensei. It lasts, for me at least, 3 times the life of a cheaper shoe. The format of design, captures the foot, keeping it for the most part, on an efficient strike and power off mode. I have the older, heavier generation shoes, but the Missus has the latest, much lighter ones. She pronated with one foot, and supinated with the other. This shoe stopped that cold.

NOTE: Many neutral shoes have an arch put in! Why? Generally neutral type feet have an arch. A high arch sometimes needs an arch supplement to keep the arch from flexing downward too much. Flat footed runners, will sometimes find the arch that is put in, most uncomfortable!

Great Ball of Foot Fire notes. I watched this back to Cave Man running craze flare up like a Rocky Mountain Forest Fire. People who always used a heal strike, --Kensei shoes are designed for this-- would leap for anything that said that it is better to do... ( I found simple, but tough training to does wonders, but who wants that? ) Results that I saw, well, quite a few were seeing a doctor. Type A personalities would trash themselves. You must transition gradually, to this kind of running, unless you always ran like this. Track runners do. And long distance runners? Patience is a virtue...

A podiatrist that I know, smiled at me once, and said he LOVED this new trend in running. Hint hint. If you can swing this style, great, good for you, you Olympian person you. Generally per Marathons, us MORTALS are content with using, punishing the entire foot. Again, marathon elites can and do use this technique generally, but running a 2:12 Marathon is not something that most of can do or have the time to train for. Good genetics help too! Looking first hand, around me, at many 3 to 4 hour marathon runners, I don't recall seeing many popping the ball of the foot at mile 18 or so. Sprint to the end, yes. Even me.

And NO, I got out of that business and do not work for Asics. Non Asics choice? Brooks Glycerin. Have some, hard to wear out, but one foot pronates a bit too much, making my knee hurt. In fact, my knees need tinder loving care now. LOL! Another choice? NIKE makes the the Lunar Glide and many customers had problems go away with this unique shoe.

Finally, I am a glorious 2.5 years away from the biz and write now. My take in general was that the manufactures were leaning towards shoes like the Lunar Glide or Kensei, but capitalizing like crazy on the barefoot like running.

Best wishes! Hope this helps.

lwesson
21st June, 2013 @ 11:52 am PDT

It is really good to read such a nice writing. I have searched couple of days such type of information and found some interesting writing on it. But it is the best of all. Thanks for writing this. I really appreciate your writing. best running shoes for flat feet

kimerickson92
25th April, 2014 @ 12:21 pm PDT
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