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Why the Right Running Shoes Can Have a Big Impact on Your Spine

July 15, 2020
Published in: Fitness, Spine

Young woman tying her shoes before running

If you're new to the sport of running, you may find yourself overwhelmed as you go to buy your first pair of shoes. You may have been ready to buy a new set of dedicated running shoes—but you may not have been ready to decide between "motion control" or "stability" or "cushioning"—or any of the dozens of other varieties of shoes on the market.

Pick the best pair of shoes to get you out and moving safely and comfortably. Doing so can prevent a lot of damage in the long run—not just to your spine, but to other critical joints in your body as well.

What Do My Shoes Have to Do With My Spine, Anyway?

Running is an excellent source of aerobic exercise but it is classified as a "high-impact" exercise. High-impact exercises are defined as those that take both feet off of the ground at the same time. They are generally faster and getting results for their participants, but can be strenuous on your body's joints. That's because the joints in your body are compressed together by the repeated force of leaving and striking the ground - including the joints in your spine.

Additionally, your back muscles have to work to keep your body upright as you move forward—putting even further strain on your back.

Choosing the right running shoes can help to soften the repeated blows to your joints. But if it was only a matter of picking "the best" running shoe, we could simply drop an Amazon link here and be done with it. But the truth is, it's not a matter of picking the "best" running shoe. It's a matter of choosing the "right" running shoe—by looking at factors such as your gait, stride, and running experience.

What Should I Take into Consideration

The biggest defining factor in choosing the right shoe for you is to determine your pronation. Pronation is your foot's natural side-to-side movement as you run. Neutral pronation means the ball of your foot hits the ground near to the center. Overpronation means your foot strikes nearer to the inside of your shoes, while in supination (also called under-pronation) your foot is hitting the ground towards the outside of your shoe.

Different types of pronation may lead you to choose different styles of shoe. You may also consider running using minimalist shoes—ones that replicate as best they can the feeling of running barefoot—although we would encourage you to be very cautious in considering this path forward, especially if you are a novice runner.

The Three Primary Types of Running Shoes

While there are dozens of types of running shoes on the market, there are three primary shoe styles that you should be aware of: neutral shoes, stability shoes, and motion control shoes.

  • Neutral shoes: As one might expect, these shoes are primarily for individuals who pronate or supinate slightly. These shoes provide shock absorption and some support.
  • Stability shoes: Made for runners exhibit mild to moderate overpronation. These shoes include a firm "post" reinforcing the arch side of each midsole.
  • Motion control shoes: These soles are made for runners who have severe overpronation. They include stiffer heels to counter a runners gait.

If you suffer from severe gait issues, you may want to seek out specialized shoes made to accommodate your stride. These shoes are likely going to be more expensive than something you can find off of the shelf but may help prevent your issues from becoming more pronounced and damaging to your body in the long run.

Picking any sort of exercise equipment—right down to your shoes—should be an informed process. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any exercise regimen. If you have questions or concerns about the health of your back and spine as a result of exercise, you may want to contact your primary care provider. You can make an appointment by calling our centralized call service at (833) AHC-HLTH.