22 Feb 5 Footwear tips for preventing running injuries
- Choose the Correct Running Shoes
This might seem like a simple thing to do but with the large number of different running shoes out there navigating the maze can be difficult. Especially with all of the differing advice out there from shoes stores, health professionals, magazines articles as well as running shoe brands advertising the next big thing that will make you run further and faster with less injuries.
The best way to select your shoes is to have an understanding of the way your foot functions, the potential for certain structures to be overloaded as a result of potential faults in your foot function, making sure your feet feel really comfortable in the shoes and are accommodated for in regards to length, width, bumps and lumps etc.
If you do not know how your foot functions then seeking advice from a running experienced Podiatrist who can help direct you towards the right type or types of shoes is the best option for you.
- Rotate 2 or 3 pairs of different types of running shoes
If you are injury free at the moment, have a low re-occurring running injury history and are diligent with your running strength work then you can possibly use a variety of shoes to run in to your advantage. The reason for this is that each brand and model reacts differently underneath your feet. Some will allow more movement and some will aim at reducing or trying to control movement at your feet. By your feet moving differently during each run in a different shoe you will be getting the potential strength and proprioception benefits that comes along with this.
An example of how to rotate your shoes would be to wear a maximalist running shoe (e.g. Hoka One One) for your longer slower endurance runs, a traditional higher mileage running shoe (firm neutral or stability) for your tempo sessions and then a lighter weight trainer for your fartlek, interval and/or speed sessions.
Deciding on which models and shoe features such as heel drop for your situation is best given by a running experience Podiatrist in conjunction possibly with their treating Physiotherapist to make sure running strength is up to speed and any transition into a minimalist type shoe is done in a correct and step wise fashion.
- Wear the correct work shoes
In my opinion an often overlooked area in terms of preventing running injuries as well as recovering in-between running sessions. For example for the ladies wearing flats to work this type of shoe can place a lot of strain on the calf, Achilles and plantar fascia especially if you are naturally tight and/or are not doing your strength, flexibility and mobility work. The accumulation of days, weeks, months of wearing this type of shoe may eventually contribute to an overuse injury while running.
On the other end of the scale are high heel shoes which, if high enough and worn day in day out can cause long term shortening of the calf and Achilles not to mention higher loading and strain of the metatarsal heads in the ball of your foot. When you run you need the opposite bend in your ankle and if there is enough repetitive strain placed on the shortened structures then this is another potential set up for an overuse injury.
Advice here for the ladies is to ideally choose a work shoe that has a slight heel up to 1 inch, stiff through the sole of the shoe and preferably has a bit of cushioning. If you need to wear high heels for work especially when seeing clients try wearing a lower heel to work or around the office and slip on your high heels when needed. Or at the very least try counteracting the shortening of the calf and Achilles by removing your heels at your desk and dropping your heel over a yellow pages (if they still exist?), a calf stretching wedge or similar.
For the men there are some pretty awful cheap and even expensive business shoes that do not provide a lot of support or cushioning. Depending on whether you are in a job that involves you being on your feet for a long period or not will most likely determine whether wearing this type of shoe is going to impact you. When it comes down to it we are not designed to be walking or standing for long periods on flat, hard surfaces. So when we wear a hard shoe with only a slab of rubber or wood underfoot we are potentially allowing too much impact and strain into our feet and body.
Advice for the men is to invest in a pair of business shoes that have a stiff sole, a cushioned midsole and innersole. Most business shoes already have a slight raise built into them so so shoe flatness is usually not an issue. There are a number of brands now that offer these features and it can make a big difference in offloading the soft tissue in your feet and lower legs aiding in prevention and recovery.
- Be smart with your casual shoes
Sorry but wearing traditional thongs or Havianas is not going to cut it. These are also flat and place strain on the structures already mentioned as well as they change the way we walk because we have to “flick” our feet up to keep thongs on. This can cause us to overstride and lock our knees as a result therefore allowing undue stress into the heels and body.
Advice with your casual shoes such as thongs or flat closed in shoes such as Converse Allstars is to try and walk in them as little as possible. Easier said than done but another option is try wearing a more supportive version of the aforementioned shoes such as thongs that have an arch support or a more cushioned and stiffer version of the closed in casual shoe style you like wearing. These are often a little more expensive but well worth the investment.
How far you take this advice will be determined by whether you are suffering with an overuse injury and/or not pulling up well in terms of stiffness and fatigue before your running sessions.
- Wear something with a slight heel and cushioning around the house
Having hard flooring such as tiling and wood at home can place a lot of strain on the feet especially on the heels and forefoot. The direct impact on the heels as well as strain on the calf and Achilles due to the heel being flat on the ground can lead to contributing to fatigue and therefore a potential overuse injury.
The best shoe you could wear at home and one I insist my patients wear if they have a running injury anywhere in the lower limb is your running shoes. These have a heel raise built into them, they are cushioned and stiff in the right areas and place the foot and lower limb into a more efficient position. The next best shoe for home wear is an orthotic thong which is usually the preferred option by runners especially in the warmer months and the fact you can slip them on and off easily.