Do Running Shoes Weaken Foot Muscles?

There have been many claims made recently by advocates of the barefoot running movement, that running shoes may weaken muscles in the feet. Unfortunately, many of these claims have not been backed up by solid scientific evidence.

There is a perception that motion control running shoes weaken the foot and this is the reason that runners pronate (roll inwards) and sustain injuries. There is absolutely no evidence to support this statement. If it were true, then you would expect to see more pronated or flat feet in runners compared to the general non running community, but this is not the case. In fact, previous well conducted scientific studies have shown that there is most definitely no relationship between muscle strength and arch height. Weakness of the internal foot muscles can actually lead to a higher arch foot type.

Podiatrists have recently argued that if a non-runner takes up running (in shoes), then they are likely to be using more muscles and hypothesize that this will actually make muscles stronger. Running shoes don’t restrict foot motion, they protect the feet from injury due to rough/uneven terrain. They also allow people to train longer and harder than they otherwise would in barefeet.

The other misinformation doing the rounds at the moment revolves around the premise that running shoes make runners more susceptible to ankle sprains. This statement is based on research which was undertaken on shoes which had large flares on the outside of the shoe, however running shoes have not been manufactured this way for many years. Most research papers on running injuries barely mention ankle sprains, as this is a very rare injury for runners to sustain due to the generally linear motion of running when compared to other sports involving lateral sideways motion.

For a full biomechanical assessment and advice regarding appropriate sports shoes to suit your needs, visit the NQ Foot and Ankle Centre.