Contributed by Dr. Steven T. Devor – Director of Performance Physiology for MIT and OhioHealth, and Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology, Department of Human Sciences, and Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, The Ohio State University
As many runners know all to well, the most common form of injuries that result in downtime and decreased mileage are overuse injuries. Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, medial tibial stress syndrome (i.e., shin splints), IT band issues, and stress fractures to various bones in the foot and lower leg are all to often experienced by many well intentioned runners. However, recent research has clearly indicated one simple strategy that can assist in the prevention of overuse injuries is as easy as owning more than one pair of running shoes, and rotating them often during the week
In the published paper, the scientists compared runners who used the same pair of shoes for every run, with those who frequently rotated their running shoes between two pairs. Those who rotated their running shoes were 39 percent less likely to develop an overuse injury. And those in the rotating shoe group utilized completely different running shoe models often from different manufacturers.
The reason for the reduced injury rate is likely due to the differing construction between the two pairs of shoes. A different cushioning pattern in the two shoes, or more or less cushioning between the two pairs, will result in a slightly different load being placed on the foot, ankle, lower leg, upper leg, and hip with every step. The slightly different loading pattern between two pairs of shoes causes the impact forces generated during running to be subtly, but importantly, different with each step. And this subtle loading pattern change has been found to help reduce the likelihood of an overuse injury.
Another positive benefit to rotating between two pairs of shoes is that you progressively introduce a new shoe to your foot, as opposed to abruptly changing from one very broken down pair into a brand new pair. Having multiple pairs of running shoes that you rotate between will require a greater investment up front, but each pair will last longer. In the end the overall investment in your running shoes will not be any greater. For many, any investment that can assist in decreasing the chance of an overuse injury is money well spent.