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Rotating Shoes Prevents Running Injuries, Research Suggests

December 06, 2013 by NYRR staff

Running injuries tend to come from repetition—the stress one puts on the lower extremities by pounding the ground in exactly the same way day in and day out—and Scandinavian scientists may have found a solution: wearing multiple pairs of shoes.

As Runner’s World reports, researchers in Luxembourg looked at 264 runners over a 22-week period and found that those who regularly switched up their sneakers were 39 percent less likely to suffer injury.

In the study—a first-of-its-kinds report published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports—scientists define running injuries as “physical pain or complaint located at the lower limbs or lower back region, sustained during or as a result of running practice and impeding planned running activity for at least one day.”

Researchers classified 116 of the 264 participants as single-shoe wearers, since they did 91 percent of their mileage in the same pair of shoes and only went through an average of 1.3 pairs over the course of the study. The 148 athletes in the multi-shoe group, by contrast, only relied on their main shoes for 58 percent of their mileage, and they wore an average of 3.6 pairs over the 22 weeks.

The most logical explanation is that each pair of shoes distributes impact differently, and that rotating among two or more models prevents runners from subjecting their bodies to the same strains over and over again.

In the paper, researchers use bigger words to say this. They write, “the concomitant use of different pairs of running shoes will provide alternation in the running pattern and vary external and active forces on the lower legs during running activity. Whether the reduced [injury] risk can be ascribed to alternation of different shoe characteristics, such as midsole densities, structures or geometries cannot be determined from these results and warrants future research.”

Another way to avoid overuse injuries may be to vary one’s routine and supplement running with other sports, as researchers found that participants prone to cross-training were also less likely to get hurt.

"Multiple shoe use and participation in other sporting activities are strategies leading to a variation of external and internal loads applied to the musculoskeletal system that could have a beneficial effect on [running injuries],” the authors write.

Great—now we have to buy extra shoes and a bicycle.

Categories: Human Interest