Running continues to grow in popularity, and research aimed at reducing the high incidence of running-related injuries has been ongoing for decades - but injury rates have not fallen. If you thought cushioned footwear can protect you better during jogging, think again!
Researchers have found that shoes with no cushioning, or minimal footwear, are, in fact, better at reducing risk of running injuries.
‘Running in minimal shoes and landing on the balls of your feet reduces loading rates and may therefore reduce the risk of injury.’
Runners who wear running shoes with no cushioning and land on the ball of their foot rather than the heel put significantly less demand on their bodies, the study found.
Researchers compared how quickly the force acts when runners' feet hit the ground - known as the loading rate - which has been shown to influence running injury risk.
"This research shows that running in minimal shoes and landing on the balls of your feet reduces loading rates and may therefore reduce the risk of injury," said lead author Hannah Rice from University of Exeter in Engalnd.
The study of 29 runners - published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
- found significantly lower loading rates for those who wore the so-called minimal running shoes and landed on the ball of their foot, compared to people in normal running shoes, regardless of whether the latter landed on the heel or ball of the foot.
"So many people use running as a means of reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but about three quarters of runners typically get injured in a year," Rice said.
"Footwear is easily modifiable but many runners are misguided when it comes to buying new running shoes," Rice noted.
Modern-day runners in cushioned footwear tend to land on their heel - known as a "rearfoot strike" - while those who run in the natural barefoot state are more likely to land on the ball of their foot - a "forefoot strike."
"Our research tells us that becoming accustomed to running with a forefoot strike in shoes that lack cushioning promotes a landing with the lowest loading rates, and this may be beneficial in reducing the risk of injury," Rice said.
The researchers, however, cautioned that any transition to new footwear or to a different foot strike pattern should be undertaken gradually, and with guidance.