Are cheap running shoes as good as expensive ones
May 24, 2018
Don’t buy cheap running shoes – get the best shoes you can afford. This is one of the most often heard pieces of advice, the idea being that expensive shoes will be better engineered, better fitting, better manufactured and more effective at preventing injury. A recent study compared cheap running shoes with some of the best available for the same brand. The study focused on plantar pressure cushioning and comfort of the shoes.
The plantar fascia is thick connective tissue along the sole of the foot which been estimated to carry 14 percent of the total load of the foot. Running shoes should cushion the foot from the pressure exerted on this area with every footfall, although even effective cushioning won’t prevent Plantar fasciitis if it’s the result of overpronation. Effective cushioning is vital to protect the runner from the cumulative effects of the impact forces encountered during running, as these can lead to overuse injury.
Shoe comfort was also measured using a questionnaire since it has been suggested that shoe comfort could be related to fatigue and injury. Impact forces have been shown to increase with fatigue and it’s certainly important to buy comfortable shoes if you’re going to enjoy running!
The study was performed in the UK and compared three pairs of running shoes from three different manufacturers at three different price ranges: low (£40 – 45 approx $80), medium (£60 – 65 approx $120) and high (£70 – 75 approx $140). The brands and models aren’t revealed although all shoes were “neutral” since the subjects were screened for abnormal gait. The researchers hid logos in case it affected the outcome although I suspect many enthusiastic runners could still recognize their favorite shoe. The subjects were asked to estimate the cost of the shoes as low, medium or high based purely on their perception of comfort.
Plantar pressure measurements under eight of the main load bearing areas of the foot were made. Measurements were included from under the heel, across the forefoot and under the big toe. Pilot and follow on studies were performed and subjects were required to both walk and run on a treadmill while measurements were taken and their perception of comfort noted.
Surprisingly it was found that low and medium cost running shoes in each of the three brands tested provided the same, if not better, cushioning of plantar pressure as high-cost running shoes. The study also revealed that comfort was not related to either the distribution of plantar pressure or the cost of the running shoes.
Although they admit their study was small and further research was needed it would seem that you can buy cheap shoes from a recognized brand and still have comfort and effective cushioning. It’s also worth noting that another study found injury rates were 123 percent greater in runners wearing expensive shoes. It’s believed that deceptive advertising claiming superior impact absorption and protection led to a false sense of security and a riskier, higher impact running style.
So the old advice about buying the best running shoes you can afford may not hold true. Remember though, this study compared models from well known brands of specialist running shoes. Buying or using cheap, unsuitable shoes is a recipe for disaster. There are different types of running shoe for different types of feet and different types of running shoe to suit different running activities.
To be sure your buying the correct shoe visit a specialist running shoe shop and get fitted properly. Tell them your price range and they should be able to provide something suitable. If they insist you need the most expensive shoe in the shop then go elsewhere. Once you’ve been running for a while and you know the type and size you need then you can shop online for the best deal.
The following is a link to a PDF file of the original article Do you get value for money when you buy an expensive pair of running shoes?