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Running shoes will not prevent running-related injuries

26 March 2014

There is no scientific evidence that running shoes will prevent running-related injuries. This is the gist of a thesis written by sports physician Steef Bredeweg from the University Medical Center Groningen. His research also shows that there are only two factors that significantly increase the risk of injury: training volume and a previous injury. Asymmetric during running does not appear to increase the risk of injury. Programmes that allow novice runners to gradually get used to the ground reaction force involved in running, and preconditioning programmes that vary the duration when novices start running , have no proven effect on the number of injuries sustained. Bredeweg will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 2 April.

Running is a popular form of sport that can be undertaken by anybody, wherever they may be. Millions of people regularly go for a run to keep themselves healthy. But unfortunately, injuries are a common problem. Most injuries resulting from overuse are sustained because of mistakes in training schedules; too far, too fast and too often. Injury incidence has hardly changed since the start of the running hype in the 1980s. Bredeweg explored some of the risk factors that cause running-related injuries and the effects of a number of methods designed to prevent these injuries.

Running shoes do not prevent injury

Bredeweg studied the scientific literature but found no evidence that good running shoes prevent injuries. He thinks that manufacturers of running shoes have misled consumers with claims: ‘Good running shoes do not prevent injury. They generate a false sense of security that actually increases the risk of injury!’

Ground reaction force

Bredeweg studied the effect of a preconditioning programme for novice runners on preventing injury. It is commonly assumed that novices with no previous experience of a sport involving ground reaction force are more likely to sustain running-related injuries. However, a specific programme whereby walking and skipping exercises gradually introduced them to this type of force made no difference to the number of injuries sustained.

A symmetry not a risk factor

A symmetry is often seen as a possible risk factor for running-related injuries. It is assumed that asymmetry between the left and right leg causes one leg to absorb more shock than the other, making it more susceptible to injury from overuse. However, the results of Bredeweg’s research show that asymmetry is a natural phenomenon when running and that the degree of asymmetry has no impact on whether or not someone will develop an injury.

Holy Grail

Bredeweg compares the search for causes of running-related injuries with the search for the Holy Grail. In his opinion, there are only two certain risk factors: training volume and a previous injury. He would like to see more research into preventing running-related injuries. ‘The main focus should be on studying the circumstances and conditions under which a novice runner should take the next step in his or her training schedule. More knowledge of the impact of sore muscles, for example, or a person’s overall physical wellbeing after strenuous exercise, would put us in a better position to advise them about safe and responsible running’.

Curriculum Vitae

Steef Bredeweg (Harderwijk, 1964) studied Medicine at the University of Groningen. He carried out his research in the Sports Medicine Centre of the UMCG. The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMW) provided funding for his research. Bredeweg’s thesis is entitled ‘Running related injuries. The effect of a preconditioning program and biomechanical risk factors’. Bredeweg works as chef de clinique in the Sports Medicine Centre of the UMCG.

Last modified:13 March 2020 02.19 a.m.
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