Study Shows Running Shoes Cause Damage to Knees, Hips, and Ankles

A recent study published in the 2009 December issue of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) has shown that running in modern athletic running shoes causes more stress on your hips, knees, and ankles than running barefoot or even walking in high-heeled shoes.

Highlights of the study:

  • 68 healthy adults were studied (31 men and 37 women)
  • None of the test subjects had any past injuries
  • Each test subject ran a minimum of 15 miles per week
  • Neutral commonly available running shoe was provided
  • Normal running shoes caused more stress in the hip, knee and ankle compared to barefoot running
  • Findings confirm that modern day running shoes provide good foot support and foot protection, but increases stress in the lower leg joints
  • Conclusion:  Running in modern day shoes causes more stress (which can lead to injury) than running barefoot or walking in high heels

Background on Running Shoe Joint Stress Study

The study is titled “The Effect of Running Shoes on Lower Extremity Joint Torques,” and was by conducted by Dr. Casey Kerrigan. In the study they examined 68 healthy adult runners (37 women and 31 men) who normally wore readily available running shoes.  These individuals were selected from the general population and all were pre-screened for any pre-existing injuries or conditions.  Study participants were asked to run on a treadmill at a set speed and then 3d motion capture software was used to monitor the motion and stress while running.

Stress measurements were collected with participants wearing shoes and as well as not wearing running shoes. The following results were calculated when comparing shoes vs. barefoot:

  • 54% Increase in hip rotation stress
  • 36% Increase in knee stress

From his findings Dr. Kerrigan commented:

“Reducing joint torques with footwear completely to that of barefoot running, while providing meaningful footwear functions, especially compliance, should be the goal of new footwear designs.”

Our Conclusion

It’s not surprising to us that their study discovered a correlation of more stress produced in the joints while running in traditional athletic running shoes compared to running barefoot.  And like most of us know stress is what leads to injuries like shin splints and plantar fasciitis.  If you talk to many Vibram FiveFinger shoes owners or barefoot runners in general many have discovered this fact on their own.  This study just further confirms what a lot of people are starting to realizing… namely, this barefoot running craze might be justified.  Even the good Dr. Kerrigan commented that new footwear design should focus on mimicking barefoot motion and movement.  When we read that we couldn’t help but think of Nike Frees, Vibram FiveFingers, and New Balance MR800’s.

If you want some scientific reading you can read the full article on Stress and Running Shoes.

1 thought on “Study Shows Running Shoes Cause Damage to Knees, Hips, and Ankles”

  1. The Kerrigan study is interesting, especially read in conjunction to the Lieberman study. It leads to a few specific conclusions regarding the benefits of barefoot living – I say living because why commit to running in them and then wear stiff, high, overly formed shoes for everyday?

    In any case, jumping into barefoot running without building up to it can cause pain and potential injury. The feet and legs need to learn how to mid-foot or forefoot strike.

    Two, being entirely barefoot can be dangerous and inappropriate, and an overly light outsole can mean inadequate protection, so a barefoot shoe needs a thin and flexible, yet high density outsole.

    The great thing about shoes like VFF is that they function well. The downside is that they look like foot gloves (after all, they are foot gloves) and so seem less appropriate for everyday wear (I sure wouldn’t wear them with a skirt), so they everyday piece can tend to default back to overly formed footwear.

    I’ve been running a long time and am learning to run with minimalist footwear. But for everyday, I wear minimalist regularly – the kigo star is my shoe of choice – minimalist yet stylish, and eco-friendly to boot (or shoe). Hope you’ll check them out too.


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