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Running Shoes: Hazardous to Your Joints?

Study Shows Running Shoes Exert More Stress on Knees and Hips Than Running Barefoot

Running Shoes Study: Other Opinions continued...

"She showed there was an increase in joint forces, but that's it," says Williams, a podiatrist in Valparaiso, Ind., and a runner. There was no link shown between running shoes and running injuries, nor with development of arthritis -- both beyond the scope of the study.

The bulk of research studies have found that runners don't have a higher incidence of knee osteoarthritis than the general population, Williams tells WebMD.

In one study, for instance, German researchers evaluated 20 former elite marathon runners and compared them to the general population, looking for arthritis. They found that knee osteoarthritis was rare in the former marathoners, publishing the result in the journal Orthopade.

Ideally, Kerrigan's team should have looked at many different shoe types, says Joseph Hamill, PhD, professor of kinesiology and director of the Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has researched the biomechanics of running shoes. "For example, a racing flat has very little in the way of cushioning and is almost like running barefoot," Hamill says.

Running Shoes Study: Industry Input

In an email response, Tiffany Herman, a spokeswoman for Brooks Sports, which makes running shoes, says: ''We value the results of this study and are in active research and development on many unique performance running footwear solutions at Brooks."

''This includes styles that enhance the natural motion of the foot and body while offering protection from weather conditions, road debris, and individual biomechanical variances."

Running Shoes: What to Buy?

So what's a runner to wear -- or not wear? "Nobody should take the message that being barefoot is better than wearing any type of shoe whatsoever," says Williams of the new study.

Kerrigan, too, says her research isn't a vote for the barefoot running trend -- nor for giving up running.

"If you are happy with your running shoes, you don't necessarily have to change them," Williams says. But if you have an injury, he suggests consulting a sports podiatrist and getting advice about the best shoe features for you.

''I would suggest runners try a number of different types of shoes until they find one that they like," Hamill says. "Also, buy two or three pairs of shoes and rotate them each day."


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