Running continues to grow in popularity in Canada. Besides the proven benefits to our mental and physical health, running is popular because you can run almost anywhere and it is relatively easy to squeeze in a run at some point in a busy day. Running also requires very little equipment – all you need is a pair of running shoes. However, this piece of equipment is vital.
If you don’t wear the right type of running shoes or don’t replace them regularly, the health benefits running provides will be jeopardized by a painful overuse injury.
Running shoes today are specifically designed to support and cushion your feet and help ensure you engage, but don’t stress, the correct muscles, tendons and ligaments while you run. If you’re running in shoes that are worn, you’re at risk for a variety of injuries as your shoes won’t be absorbing the force when your feet hit the ground. This will cause the resulting shock to be sent back through your feet, ankles, knees and hips.
Common injuries that result from running in shoes that are too worn are:
Plantar Fasciitis: Worn running shoes do not provide adequate arch support. This lack of support can cause the thick band of tissue that runs from your heel to your toes to become inflamed, tight or torn. The result is heel pain (plantar fasciitis) that can make getting out of bed difficult and make running painful.
Shin Splints: Worn running shoes can cause excess stress to both the inside and outside of your shins. If this stress occurs at a time when you are increasing your running distance or switching from running on flat ground to hills, it can lead to pain, muscle tears, tightness, and inflammation in your shins.
Stress fractures: When you run, your body takes a lot of pounding which can cause tiny cracks in your bones to occur. Shoes that have weakened support and worn cushioning will not provide the protective support your feet and lower legs need to reduce the risk of these tiny fractures.
IT Band Syndrome: Old running shoes combined with sloped surfaces can cause your legs to turn inward when you run. This can cause the IT band, which runs along the outside of your thigh to your shin, to become stiff and inflamed which will result in knee pain.
Runner’s Knee: Worn out running shoes are one of the primary causes of runner’s knee, a painful condition that includes a range of knee injuries.
These tips will help you determine if your running shoes need replacing:

  • Running shoes need replacing every 500 to 750 km. If you’re a heavier build or run on rough terrain they will need replacing more frequently.
  • Write the date you purchased your shoes inside one of the shoes and replace them after a maximum of 1 to 1.5 years. Whether they have had significant use or not, the shoe materials will begin to break down or even harden (from running in the wet) and the shoes should be replaced.
  • Once a month, look at the sole of shoes. If you see any cracks forming or your treads are worn, your shoes need replacing.
  • If you experience new aches or pains when you run, it is a sign that the cushioning and support in your shoes may be worn and it’s time to get a new pair.

Replacing your shoes before they become too worn will help protect you from injury.
Canadian Certified Pedorthists can also decrease your risk of an overuse injury. As foot and lower limb experts, they can assess your individual biomechanics and recommend the most appropriate type of running shoe for you and advise if you will benefit from foot orthotics.
By Jasmine Basner, C. Ped (C), Barrie, Ontario