A study was recently conducted of 1,400 male and female Marine recruits. A static measurement was taken of each recruit’s foot while standing still, and each was determined to overpronate, underpronate, or not pronate.  The 1,400 were then randomly divided into two groups, basic stabiliy-shoes-for-all and shoes-for-particular-characteristic.

Dr. Joseph Knapik, an epidemiologist at Aberdeen, led the study of about 1,400 Marine Corps recruits. The recruits — both men and women — all had their foot shape analyzed and were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

One group got a running shoe that was marketed for their type of pronation: runners whose footprints indicated they were overpronators got a motion control shoe, underpronators got a cushion shoe, and those with normal pronation got a stability shoe.

Members of the other group were all assigned stability shoes, regardless of their foot shape and pronation. Then the recruits wore their assigned shoes, alternating with combat boots, for 12 weeks of training.

During the study, Knapik and his colleagues kept track of different kinds of injuries in the recruits, including overuse injuries and injuries to tendons and ligaments as well as bones and muscles.

In every way the study team measured injuries, there was little difference in how often members of the two groups got injured. This was true for both men and women.

You’ll see from the article that questions were raised about the usefulness of identifying shoe-types based on an active measurement. The advice to pick a shoe that is comfortable (and stick with one that works) is worth noting.

Separately, I saw another statement (in a tweet) that forefoot striking is the most efficient way to run. As I’ve written, I think this is hogwash.  There was recently another thread on LetsRun on the topic, which made reference to Jack Daniels. There’s a recent video with him from Flotrack in which he mentions this; I can’t embed so click through.

(Edited to add: Flo forwarded an article in the comments by Steve Magness about Salazar altering Ritz’s form a bit. Salazar was known for bad form (including being a heelstriker) but he ran pretty well. Read the whole thing. Salazar, he says, is not afraid to alter form (as Carl Lewis did as a long-jumper) but does not do so willy-nilly. Here are the final three paragraphs:

With all that being said, with Salazar and Ritzenhein, if they’ve researched it and are confident in their ability to make the change, I think it’ll work out well. The biggest problem that people run into with changing mechanics is being led down the wrong path. They make changes without knowing what they are doing, why they are doing it, or even what good mechanics are. This problem will get even worse with the rise of popularity of barefoot running and forefoot striking.

Generally, you’ll see an increase in injuries if you make changes without knowing what you are doing, and I believe this is what has given running form changes a bad name. Too many people with good intentions without knowing what to do and how to change. Remember that you are messing with probably 2 decades of motor programming. It’s easy to mess things up.

Hopefully Salazar and his crew know what they are doing. If so, it’ll be a good change for Ritz. If not, it’ll probably just lead to more injuries.