Running, Performance and Injuries – Is It in the Shoes?

Dec 01, 2020

Some runners tend to get obsessed when it comes to shoes. Shoe companies consistently come up with innovations with running shoes that aim to reduce injury risk and boost performance. Primarily, running shoes support your feet by adding cushioning in some areas to them. The purpose is to help absorb the shock when your foot strikes the ground, as well as minimise running injuries.

Believe it or not, running can cause a high impact not only on feet alone but also on other parts including knees, hips and spine – and in general, it’s very healthy for the body (and mind).

Perhaps then it’s in the shoes, or is it not?

Different Shoes for Different Purposes

The human feet are built to handle the rigours of running. Before the shoes were invented, humans were already capable of running as a survival skill. Let’s not forget how uneven and unstable the ground they were living on.

Today, there are many kinds of shoes serving different purposes on different feet. For instance, there are shoes that are highly cushioned to lower the impact when running. However, if it feels like running with pillows strapped on your feet, the tendency is the rest of the body might change in terms of biomechanics.

What Studies Show

Research conducted by Christine Pollard, PhD and colleagues showed that runners absorb more impact from running when they wear maximal trainers compared to regular shoes. The biomechanics of 15 women in the study were observed as they ran a 5K on the treadmill wearing maximal shoes and regular shoes.

In their maximal shoes, the participants had higher vertical loading rates and peak impact as compared to when they were wearing regular shoes. The researchers noted that the potential reason was the running biomechanics of the runner’s change when in the cushiony maximal shoes [1].

In a follow-up study, the researchers hypothesised that if the runners train regularly in maximal shoes, they would be able to adapt to absorb less impact.

Twenty runners between ages 18-45 years old, who ran at least 15 miles a week, participated in 2 sessions in the lab, each session about 6 weeks apart. They completed the sessions wearing maximal shoes and regular shoes.

The runners continued their regular mileage but gradually increased in the maximal shoes over the 6-week period, with the remaining 2 weeks only in the maximal shoes.

The results showed no changes in running biomechanics over time in either type of shoes. Like the previous study, there are increased impact forces and loading rates in the maximal shoe [2].

In an interview, Pollard says that if someone is going to try running shoes out, he suggests trying it out on a treadmill in a running store and seeing how it feels. How it feels then is how it’ll feel in six weeks [3].

It has been a hot debate on what’s the best running shoe around. But if the perfect shoe does exist, everyone would be wearing it. All runners will no longer get injured and will always run at their best.

But it seems to be far from it.

How to Reduce Injuries

Until that happens, the best thing you can do is to condition your body by doing Reformer Pilates regularly and seeing a physiotherapist so you can have your biomechanics checked. And find a pair of shoes that feels best for you.

The bottom line, it’s not entirely in the shoes if you want to prevent injuries and optimise performance. Your body itself is. Book an appointment with us today!


  1. Pollard CD, Ter Har JA, Hannigan JJ, Norcross MF. Influence of Maximal Running Shoes on Biomechanics Before and After a 5K Run. Orthop J Sports Med. 2018;6(6):2325967118775720. Published 2018 Jun 7. doi:10.1177/2325967118775720
  2. Hannigan, J. J., & Pollard, C. D. (2019). A 6-Week Transition to Maximal Running Shoes Does Not Change Running Biomechanics. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(4), 968–973.
  3. Despite transition period, maximal running shoes may still increase risk of injury. (2019, April 16). Retrieved from