Updated: Apr 21, 2021
We've all seen the commercials of the cure all, the "buy this to fix all your pain," the "put this in your shoe to remove pain," or "buy this shoe to fix your posture." Do you ever wonder if it's true? Do all I need is a special shoe and if so who do you trust to give you the best advice?
It can be difficult when you go into a store and a sales person is trying to tell you why you have pain and what to do to fix it. Especially when the only training they have is a "sales orientation" they get when hired. Do you really want to trust your health and well being to a sales person?
Good thing the researchers at JOSPT (Journal of Orthopedic Sports PT) have put together some new research looking further into the issue. A recent study performed in Belgium looked into "motion-control shoes" and the effect it would have on pronation. Now how many times have you been to a running shoe store or in a group and been told "you over pronate?" It's something I hear all too often in the clinic and let me tell you, it's the go to comment people say to make it sound like they know what they are talking about. So in other words, don't believe it. But I digress back to the study.
The group of researches looking into how to prevent over pronation in Olympic athletes, with specifically designed shoes made for the study, and how much change the shoes would have in the body. What they found out may help give you an idea if those expensive shoes or inserts are worth the money.
372 recreational runners were assigned to the study and split into two groups: one group got the special, motion-control shoes, the other group got a regular shoe. The runners were instructed to run at least once a week for 6 months and to report any injuries that occur along the way and at the end of the study. The shoes used were designed and manufactured specifically for the study and all labels or identification was removed so you couldn't tell which shoe you got.
What the researchers found was the runners who used the "motion-controlled" shoes were less likely to have a "pronation injury." Meaning those runners were found to have experienced an Achilles pain, heel pain, shin splits, and/or knee pain. But the "motion-controlled" shoes had little to do with any other pain in the body and the researches had difficulty in concluding knee pain was related.
So, what does that mean for you? At best, if you got any kind of "motion-controlled" shoe or insert for your foot, you could expect the impact to be no greater than your knee.
So, if you experience foot pain or ankle pain when running, a motion-controlled shoe may benefit you in the short term. But if you're experiencing any kind of back pain, hip pain, and even leg pain, I would not place so much faith and hope in a shoe or flimsy insert to fix the problem.
A better solution may be to change some of your daily habits and routines. I often find many of my running athletes who have pain during running often relates to poor posture during working hours, especially if you have a 9-5 desk office position. Another area for improvement I see is building up a stronger core, and remember, the diaphragm is part of the core musculature. Often the diaphragm is ignored in training and I hear athletes tell me all the time, "I have a six pack" or "I can do 4 minute planks." But when I look at their breathing efficiency and pattern, I find a lot to be desired.
Overall, don't trust a sales person when it comes to your health and know that an object like shoes or an insert will rarely have a big enough impact to remedy your pain. Think of it this way, you have been using those shoes, trying that tape, stepping on that insert all this time and now have pain. If it can stop pain, it should have done it by now.