Johnny Ellsworth | February 22, 2019
I remember the first time I got shin splints. It was the fall of freshman year, cross country season was in full swing, and I was ending a seventy-minute run when I felt the pain. My shins started to throb, and with that, I began to fear that I had developed an injury that would impact my performance detrimentally—shin splints. I’d heard of them from my teammates before, that they happened when fluid starts to build up under your shin bone as your muscle begins to tear away from its attachment. And yes, they said that it was every bit as bad as it sounds.
To prevent these injuries, the coaches emphasized the importance of having shoes that support you. That’s easier said than done, however. If you’ve ever been shopping for running shoes, you know about the overwhelming onslaught of ads claiming that they have this brand-new shoe technology. For example, Asics, on their DynaFlyte 2 shoe, claims that the shoe has five unique features: their ORTHOLIKE™ X-40 SOCKLINER, their GUIDANCE LINE© MIDSOLE TECHNOLOGY, their REARFOOT GEL© TECHNOLOGY CUSHIONING SYSTEM, their FLYTEFOAM™ TECHNOLOGY, and their ADAPT MESH™ UPPER. Besides the fact that the names are ridiculous and overwhelming (“rearfoot gel technology cushioning system”), the claimed technologies in all shoe brands involving cushioning and motion control (pronation control) do not have definitive research to prove that they help prevent injuries. Let me repeat, shoe cushioning and motion control have no definitive research supporting that they prevent injuries.
Simon Bartold, a well-known sports podiatry and biomechanics expert, says, “we know pretty conclusively that cushioning has no effect on injury rates whatsoever.” He has also previously stated that the same goes for motion control, a concept that should be “flushed down the toilet.” Data has been collected over the past forty years, and with supposed advances in footwear, injury rates have not changed.
I don’t know about you, but that seems like a huge marketing stunt on the side of the shoe companies. It is wrong for them to market cushioning and motion control as something that can prevent injuries. I bought into it, and I’m sure every member of the cross country team bought into that idea as well. It is too easy for us to see these fancy technologies and assume that they will fix our problems, when, in reality, the truth is far from that.
Yes, your REARFOOT GEL© TECHNOLOGY CUSHIONING SYSTEM may not do as much as it claims it does. Don’t worry, we were all fooled. In the shoemaking world, marketing has outpaced science.
But what, then, should we go off of when we’re buying shoes? Bartold gives a simple answer: comfort. He says that the single thing that likely impacts our injury rate is the comfort of your shoes. There is no one shoe that works for every runner or every situation. So drive yourself to your nearest Running Fit, ignore the rapid-fire advertisements, and feel out your options.