Imagine this scene. It’s a dark alley in New York City with the fog billowing up from the sewers. A city cop is talking to a distraught woman in running gear. She is in a lot of pain and appears to have been the victim of a vicious crime. The officer asks her “What’s wrong, what happened?!? It’s difficult for her to summon words and all she can stammer out is “injured…it was the shoes!!!” She then collapses to the ground in agony and the officer shakes his head in disbelief. It’s quite a stretch for him to imagine an inanimate object could do so much harm.
While the story above is a bit dramatic, it’s surprisingly not that far off from what one can see from a typical runner. They limp into a running store with their aches/pains with a shoe box and receipt in hand. They place the shoes down on the counter and say “I’d like to return these shoes please, they injured me.” When I witness this, I do an internal chuckle. While I do think some shoes are better than others (and some shoes can encourage injuries such as 12mm shoes;)), I find it hard to believe that a shoe, an inanimate object, is the sole cause of an injury. I find it far more likely that the person is injured because of their own shortcomings. With that being said, before you decide to blame an injury on your shoe, run through this checklist of other things that may have led to your injury.
1. The Law of Toos
Did you break the Law of Too? Too much, too fast, too soon? If you do too much mileage, or go too fast, or do more than your body is capable of too soon, it will most likely lead to an injury. This can be semi-shoe related as there is an adaptation to all shoes, but it still is a user error.
2. Do You Have the Range of Motion?
Running requires a decent amount of range of motion to run efficiently and relatively injury free. The key areas to focus on are dorsiflexion and extension of the hip. Consult with a physical therapist to see how much range of motion you have and for ways to improve it.
3. What Is Your Injury History?
Most runners get injured several times of year for various reasons. However, when they switch shoes and encounter an injury, it all of a sudden becomes the fault of the new shoe. Seems a bit unfair, don’t you think?
4. Do You Strength Train?
Running isn’t just a sport where you lace up your shoes and go as many would like to think. It requires skill and drills to perfect the motion and decrease injury potential. Having a stronger kinetic chain will give you far more stability than any so-called “stability shoe”.
5. Do You Perform Your Running Drills?
Drills are an exaggerated motion to get to a desired motion. Practicing good running form can help to ensure you are running with a form that maximizes efficiency and decreases injury potential for your personal profile. Drills should be incorporated into workouts several times a week.
6. Think Logically
What is it about the shoe that could have possibly “caused the injury”? It is a bit of a stretch to blame a piece of rubber, foam, and canvas for your injury. Think long and hard as to what exactly this shoe “did” to injure you. (I stay away from shoes above 8mm for heel-toe-offset.)
7. Look at Your Training Plan
If you don’t have a good sound training plan for your running, there is a good chance of getting injured. If your plan is to do a 25 miler everyday for the rest of your life, you’re most likely going to encounter an injury (unless you take many proper steps of build up). Make sure you allow to the body to recover and work in rest days.
8. The Big Picture
Look at your life holistically and consider your sleep, nutrition, daily life, stress levels, medical conditions, genetics, and cross training. All of these play a part in your running and health whether you like it or not.
9. What Else is in the Shoe?
Some stores like to sell custom-made or over-the-counter insoles. With the exception of limited cases, I’m not a fan of these as long-term solutions. These devices could potentially alter your biomechanics and lead to injury.
10. Do You Have the Correct Size?
While the running population has gotten better at this, there are still a good many runners who refuse to change their shoe size, regardless of recommendations. A shoe that is too small can lead to injuries such as bunions, hammer toes, arthritis, and more. Make sure you have about a thumbs width in-between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
11. The Universe of Possibilities
This list could go on, but we’ll leave it at 11. The takeaway being that the running shoe is most likely not the cause for your injury. Be diligent about massage, strength training, range of motion, and drills and you will be able to eliminate a host of injuries.
Always in Stride,
P.S. Maybe it’s the shoe;)