When starting a running program, beginners always want to put their best foot forward. To avoid injury, many purchase a supportive shoe that minimizes excess movement in the foot. Researchers from Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark, suggest that this may not always be necessary.

The researchers wanted to determine whether degree of pronation among novice runners wearing “neutral” shoes could predict time to injury. After evaluating foot alignment in 927 individuals, the scientists divided the subjects into five categories: highly supinated, supinated, neutral, pronated and highly pronated. Throughout the following year, the subjects ran in neutral shoes while wearing global positioning monitors to record running distance.

By the end of the trial, 252 subjects had experienced a running-related injury, defined for the study as a musculoskeletal complaint of the lower extremity or back lasting at least a week. Results showed no significant risk difference among foot alignment categories after 250 kilometers of running. Moreover, the injury incidence rate per 1,000 km of running was significantly lower among pronators than among those with neutral alignment.

“The results of the present study contradict the widespread belief that moderate foot pronation is associated with an increased risk of injury among novice runners taking up running in a neutral running shoe,” the authors noted. “More work is needed to ascertain if highly pronated feet face a higher risk of injury than neutral feet.”

The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2013; doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092202).

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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