The women in the study were then sent off to take part in a 13-week training program to prepare for a half-marathon to be run in Vancouver, BC. Estimated weekly training volumes started around 20km and rose to a peak of about 40-45km. Over the course of the training program, researchers recorded the number of missed workouts due to injury by each runner, and reportings of pain at rest, during daily living, and following runs. Ultimately, only 81 of the women wound up completing the study (for a variety of reasons, 24 women dropped out).Although the authors point out that the difference may not be clinically significant, it is once again amazing that neutral runners faired better with a shoe that would not have been “prescribed” for them in a shoe store based on their degree of pronation.vSo what can we conclude from all of this? First, although they have an admittedly small sample, it appears that motion control shoes offer little benefit, and in fact are more likely to cause pain and injury than any of the other shoe types. That fact that every single severe overpronator exprienced an injury in their motion control shoes begs the question of why anybody would use them? The authors themselves conclude that “This study is unable to provide support for the convention that highly pronated runners should wear motion control shoes.” Interestingly, Christopher McDougall indicated recently on his blog that the life of the motion control shoe might soon be coming to an end.Second, this study showed that neutral runners did better in stability shoes, and pronated runners did better in neutral shoes. Try to make sense of that one…So what do the authors themselves conclude? The final sentence of their paper states: “Current conventions for assigning stability categories for women’s running shoes do not appear appropriate based on the risk of experiencing pain when training for a half marathon.” More clearly, they conclude their abstract with the telling statement that “The findings of this study suggest that our current approach of prescribing in-shoe pronation control systems on the basis of foot type is overly simplistic and potentially injurious.” Now wait a second. If this is true, then why does almost every shoe store on this planet classify shoes based on pronation control (i.e., neutral, stability, motion control, etc…), and place runners in shoes based on their arch height (more on arch height in another post to come soon) or degree of “observed” pronation? This is bewildering stuff, and further strengthens my belief that maybe it’s time for a change in how we choose or “prescribe” our shoes.I’ll finish by relating a few quotes from Dr. Ryan, the lead author of this amazing study, as reported by Gretchen Reynolds’ on the NY Times Well Blog. When asked how to choose a running shoe given his experimental results, Ryan says (and recall that his co-author is a biomechanics expert at the Nike Sports Research Laboratory – I give Nike a lot of credit if they signed off on publication of this paper, though I have no idea if they had any say in the matter)“If a salesperson says you need robust motion-control shoes, ask to try on a few pairs of neutral or stability shoes, too…” “Go outside and run around the block” in each pair. “If you feel any pain or discomfort, that’s your first veto.” Hand back those shoes. Try several more pairs. “There really are only a few pairs that will fit and feel right” for any individual runner… “My best advice is, turn on your sensors and listen to your body, not to what the salespeople might tell you.”That last quote is right on the money – “turn on your sensors and listen to your body.” Your body evolved to run long distances, and it evolved to do so barefoot. The realist in me knows that most people will likely never run barefoot, so if that’s not your thing, look for as little shoe as you can handle and still run comfortably. Your body will let you know if it’s happy, be mindful and listen.