Running Shoes Are Worse Than High Heels

Running Is Not Bad For Your Knees, but Running Shoes Might Be

When it comes to running and your body, there's both good news and bad news. The good news is that running doesn't cause arthritis in the knees, and the bad news is your running shoes could be the source of many injuries. Let's begin on the brighter side.

Ongoing research, tracking runners and non-runners over a couple of decades, has found that runners do not suffer arthritis in their knees at a higher rate than their more sedentary counterparts. The even better news is that it looks like high-impact activities like running may actually help the cartilage remain healthy. Here's how researcher James Fries and Time explain the phenomenon:

Because cartilage — the soft connective tissue that surrounds the bones in joints — does not have arteries that deliver blood, it relies on the pumping action generated by movement to get its regular dose of oxygen and nutrients. "When you bear weight, [the joint] squishes out fluid, and when you release weight, it sucks in fluid," says Fries, explaining why a daily run or any other workout is useful for maintaining healthy cartilage.

I like the image of the cartilage lining my knees joints working like a sponge. On the heels of this good news comes the research about running shoes. Learn more when you continue reading.

Barefoot running is gaining momentum (pun intended) these days, and a study published in the journal Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation argues that running shoes cause, rather than prevent, a wide variety of injuries by increasing torque on hips and knees. Not only that, but "shod running," as the study somewhat anachronistically refers to running while wearing shoes, creates a reduction in propulsion — nothing any runner wants to hear about her sneakers. In the conclusion to the study the researchers wrote,

"Remarkably, the effect of running shoes on knee joint torques during running (36 percent to 38 percent increase) that the authors observed here is even greater than the effect that was reported earlier of high-heeled shoes during walking (20 percent to 26 percent increase)."

After reading the study, I am not about to go running in high heels, but I will certainly rethink the notion of a motion control sneaker. What about you? Are you ready to run barefoot?

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