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Running injuries: Truth, Lies and Journalism

By on Sep 14, 2013
Image of injured runner

It’s arguably the most provocative running article of the summer. The New York Times published in late June a provocative story that, in citing recent research in a major sports medicine journal, appeared to demolish some of the most widely held views about running injuries. But, as it transpires, the conclusion isn’t quite as simple as the New York Times would have you believe…

More information about ‘A Popular Myth About Running Injuries’

The New York Times article sets out by highlighting the importance of pronation according to conventional running wisdom. In the words of Gretchen Reynolds – author of the article and the man behind the popular ‘Phys Ed’ series for the paper – the story goes like this. Pronate too much and you’ll wind up hurt. Pronate too little and…you’ve guessed it…you’ll wind up hurt.

But, Gretchen argues, this view is probably wrong. In a striking challenge to the traditional view of running injuries, the evidence cited in the article seems to imply that there is no greater risk of injury for overpronating or underpronating runners than for those runners characterized by a neutral foot position.

As argued by Bryan Heiderscheit, director of the Madison running clinic at the University of Wisconsin:

…The research reinforces a widespread belief among scientists studying running “that pronation doesn’t play much of a role” in injury risk…

The Case For The Defence

But when it comes to running injury, things are rarely that straight-forward. There are two sides to every story – something that is abundantly clear from a recent article by Bruce Wilk, author of the ‘Running Injury Recovery Program‘ (see below).

Wilk highlights a number of salient points that call into question the above interpretation of the study cited in the New York Times article:

  1. The study was of foot-type rather than pronation.
  2. Subjects were never observed or measured during the actual act of running.
  3. That is a key omission, given that a runner may appear to be neutral when in a stable standing position but then excessively pronate when actually in the act of running.
Injured? And confused?

For any runner, there’s another conclusion to be drawn. We need to be wary of the headlines of new studies that highlight apparently dramatic breakthroughs in our understanding of running injuries. And we need to be especially wary of second-hand interpretaions of those studies.

Navigating our way through the minefield of running injury research is becoming more hazardous by the day.

…underpronation, overpronation, and running shoe selection all do play a roll in running injury development and are critical in running injury management. We stand by our advice that it is best to run in properly designed, manufactured, fitted, and functioning running shoes…

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