Running Shoes: What's worth your money?

By Elizabeth Temple - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – Running 26 miles a week at 59 years old wore Richard Sexton's shoes and ankles out.

"I'd been off for about 5 months with ankle pain and it wasn't getting any better," said Sexton.

He went to Dr. Tyson Green, Orthopedist at the Center for Orthopedics, for help and Dr. Green says the shoes you wear make all the difference.

"It's just a house for what goes inside the shoe," he explained.

Shoes at a local athletic store can range from 84 dollars to 140 dollars, but Dr. Green says the higher priced shoe may not be the best way to spend your money.

"Because that's just last years style in a new color, so you can go to something more in the 49 to 89 dollar range in athletic shoe and especially running shoes and you can get a really good shoe for that," said Dr. Green.

There are even shoes that claim to give you a workout just by lacing them up.

"They claim it will take pressure off of certain areas but also make you work out a little harder, make your legs work a little harder. We do enough grind on a daily basis on the surfaces that we're walking on, work in, run in that we really don't need any added pressure on our lower legs and feet. A lot of people with those rocker-bottom shoes that just came out that come in with tendinitis and different types of fatigue in their lower extremities that you probably don't need. I know some people swear by them and that's great, but I see a lot more negative things than positive things," said Dr. Green.

He suggests orthotic inserts which come in all shapes and sizes.

"The orthotic that you put in your shoe is going to absorb shock too, so you can have a shoe that doesn't necessarily have the shock absorbing written on the box and still have a good shoe," said Dr. Green.

Sexton's insoles got him back up and running.

"I've run approximately 250 miles since I started with the new orthotics completely pain free, so I'm pretty excited."

They custom fit his foot, but are not cheap. Without insurance, inserts can cost over 400 bucks. Dr. Green says cheaper over the counter options can also help as long as they feel sturdy and do not bend much at the arch of the foot.

Skechers USA issued this statement to KPLC in response to the story:

It would be unfair to base a story on the opinions of practitioners, regardless of their professional credentials,who have neither done their own rigorous clinical studies nor read the scientific literature substantiating the benefits of this shoe type.

Numerous studies have identified the benefits of rocker bottom shoes, including Shape-ups. This competent and reliable scientific evidence supports the benefits, particularly relating to increased muscle activation, greater energy consumption, increased metabolic rates, and the strengthening and toning of certain muscles.

For instance:

•     a 2006 study at the Laboratory for Gait Analysis, Children's University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland found participants rocker-bottom shoe wearers had increased muscle activity while walking in rocker- bottom shoes, compared to flat-bottom shoe wearers. Jacqueline Romkes, Christian Rudmann & Reinald Brunner, Changes in Gait and EMG when walking with the Masai Barefoot Technique, 21 Clinical Biomechanics 7S (2006)

•     a 2007 study at the Rennbahn Practice Clinic for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at the Swiss Olympic Medical Center found gains in motor strength in rocker- bottom toning shoe wearers that were not seen in the control group. Xaver Kalin et al., MBT as Therapeutic Shoe for Ankle Instabilities (Jan. 2007)

Links to these two studies are easily found on the Internet.

Recent studies of Shape-ups include:

•     a Sept. 2009 study by Tishya Wren, et al, USC's Keck School of Medicine, found increased muscle activity in Shape-ups wearers compared to flat-bottom shoe wearers.

•     a Nov. 2009 study involving 80 participants by Dr. Steven Gautreau, D.C., et al, found both Shape-ups wearers and the control group gained strength, but only Shape-ups wearers experienced significant weight loss and reduced body fat.

Given the body of scientific research that shows rocker bottom shoes increase muscle activity and heighten the metabolic demands of walking, we think would be unfair to report one doctor's opinion based on anecdotal experience without thoroughly researching and reporting the established scientific literature.