BBC 1’s Panorama programme screened on July 19th suggested that there was a lack of evidence that popular sports products work. The three products they looked at were shoes, sports drinks and protein shakes. A team from Oxford University examined Puma’s claim that their shoes are ‘designed to …minimize injury, optimize comfort and maximize speed’ (endorsed by sprint sensation: Usain Bolt). However, there appears to be no sound evidence to back this claim from Puma or anywhere else. Panorama did bring in Professor Benno Nigg from the University of Calgary in Canada who has studied the biomechanics of running for many years. His studies have shown that the type of shoe is less important than the amount and way people train. E.g. how fast? how far? and how much recovery? His advice to runners would be to find something that feels good, fits and is comfortable.
This has aroused much discussion amongst our runners and walkers. We have a responsibility as Leaders in Running Fitness; ‘inappropriate footwear’ is highlighted as one of the primary (injury) risk factors for new runners.
For myself, I have run competitively for 25 years and, owing to poor biomechanics, I am convinced this would not have been possible without specialized running shoes. I have asked one of our long standing runners, Richard Cashmore, for his view. Richard is now 75 and has been running for many years.
‘Certainly I have always gone for simple, light, neutral shoes – and some 70,000 miles in them on road surfaces suggest that this is right for me. No need for all the ‘fashionable’ gizmos which result in heavy, clumpy shoes.’
In conclusion, some people will be fine with a simple running shoe but for others something more technical will ensure they are able to continue running into later life, but let’s look at how we are training before we blame the tools.