Raise your hand if you spend more on your running gear than you do on food and basic survival needs. They say that running is one of the least expensive sports to do, as it requires the least amount of equipment. The bare-footed, Hanes t-shirt clad minimalists out there are nodding their heads, while the rest of us are furrowing our brows incredulously, silently dreading the magic number that will appear on the next credit card bill capturing our latest spree at the local running shop. It is a reflection of the society many of us live in, but it’s easy to justify high cost, hi-tech clothing and cushioning, supportive shoes in the face of blisters, chafing, and foot, shin and knee injuries.
Or is it? Scientists at the Institute of Motion Analysis and Research (IMAR) at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, Scotland, are questioning whether expensive running shoes are worth the money and perform any better than lower cost options. For those of us who have been culturally conditioned to believe that more expensive generally equates to better, the first study results might be surprising.
According to the study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine‘s “Online First” section, low- and medium-cost running shoes performed the same, if not better, than high-cost shoes from the same manufacturers.
In the study, low-, medium-, and high-cost options from three manufacturers were tested by 43 male subjects (UK sizes 8 and 10 shoes) for comfort and plantar pressure measurements. Comfort was assessed using a visual analogue scale. Pressure measurements were taken using specially made insoles while each subject walked approximately 15 steps. A smaller follow-on study looked at the pressure distribution patterns between walking and running on a treadmill.
In their discussion, the authors point out that this study is not definitive: It only concentrated on two aspects of running shoe design and measurements that were collected while participants walked, leaving many other factors to be examined before conclusions can be drawn. However, the results suggest that cost may not be a good indicator of a running shoe’s performance.
Until further studies are complete, I remain hesitant. As much as I’d love to pay half as much for my next pair of shoes, I’ve tried some of those cheaper pairs out there, hoping to save some money, but they don’t feel right. It’s true, my feet are high maintenance. But, I can’t be the only one. Are we all falling into the advertising trap? Are expensive shoes not all they’re cracked up to be? I just don’t know.
My pocketbook might be on board, but my feet falter.