Arch support in running shoes: separating the truth from the gimmicks

I receive a lot of press releases and emails. Some are not relevant to my blog and get deleted, others are both relevant and informative. Last week I received an email about a couple of subjects I’ve thought about quite a lot recently – arch support in running shoes and customised insoles.

The RunRepeat team recently published the results from a meta analysis of more than 150 studies about arch support and its impact on injury risk, balance, and running economy for runners.

They dispelled quite a few myths and found that:

  • Arch support and features like motion control or stability doesn’t make a huge difference to injury risk, balance, or performance.
  • The more arch support you want the higher the shoe price
  • Choosing shoes based on wet test or your arch type might be a bad idea

Although the research article took more than 185 hours to write and is therefore slightly too long to share here, the authors produced this useful infographic that presents the key findings.

Arch-support-Truth-vs-hype-2-768x3053[Source]

As a runner who can’t actually run without customised insoles, I found both the article and the infographic very informative. Both left me with quite a lot to think about.

The authors concluded their article as follows:

“Arch support cannot make a huge difference to injury risk, balance, or performance for runners. There is no point spending extra money on arch support in shoes or shoe inserts, just because a salesman thinks your arch is a little too high or low. However, custom orthotics or specific shoes can help with pain management and dealing with certain foot related problems when used after consulting with a physician or certified coach.”

I’m a member of quite a few online running groups, and I agree that many runners appear to be getting pushed into buying expensive shoe inserts they probably don’t need. A certain sports retailer with stores across the UK actually encourages their staff to sell shoe inserts whenever they sell a pair of trainers. If I was an inexperienced runner, I would probably incorrectly assume that I was talking to an ‘expert’ and would fall for the sales pitch.

If sharing this article prevents just one runner from buying shoe inserts they don’t need I’ll be happy 🙂

Did you find the research article interesting? As someone with dodgy feet and arches I thought the article was pretty informative.

Had you realised that the more arch support you want in a pair of trainers the higher the shoe price? I definitely hadn’t realised I’m being penalised for having dodgy feet!

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4 thoughts on “Arch support in running shoes: separating the truth from the gimmicks

  1. Anna @AnnaTheApple says:

    Verrrry interesting. I do buy trainers with support and in general have found it’s more to do with HOW I train than my trainers themselves that cause me injuries. Making stupid decisions regarding recovery and not doing essential strength training have mostly been my problem.
    In fact, I’ve pretty much worn the same style of trainers since I started running and it’s only since going to the gym consistently and becoming stronger that injuries have decreased hugely.

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    • Emma says:

      After a long, niggly running career, I’m only just getting to grips with strength and conditioning, I’ve got a long way to go! I’ve always been guilty of running and not cooling down afterwards. Collapsing onto the sofa after a long run probably doesn’t count as sensible recovery… Like you, I’ve always worn the same style of trainers and don’t think I can blame my issues on my Brooks. It’s just unfortunate I was born with dodgy feet.

      I’ve made so many stupid running decisions. Some of my most dumb moments include running a half marathon on a treadmill. I’d never run on a treadmill before, I must have adopted a slightly different running style and ended up with a groin injury. I also ignored persistent pain in my foot, the pain turned out to be a metatarsal stress fracture and not just a niggle. Hopefully I’ll make it to the end of the year if I improve my diet, work on my strength and conditioning and train sensibly.

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  2. Maria @ Maria Runs says:

    This is really interesting. I think I like a bit of support, but I have found some shoes a bit too chunky and awkward to wear. I did read Born to Run about the whole shoe industry causing more injuries, but I don’t even walk properly I don’t think- if I walk barefoot I am sure it’s differently to usual.

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    • Emma says:

      I bought some really chunky trainers once; they made me feel quite flat-footed. At least people walking on the pavement could hear me approaching! My feet are so dodgy, I don’t think I could run without the extra arch support my customised insoles provide. I’ve reached the stage I find walking long distances in flat shoes painful. I must re-read Born to Run, thanks for the reminder.

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