Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dr. Rob Rinaldi on how to reduce running injuries

The Andrew Wakefield golden ass award goes to Dr. Rob Rinaldi, DPM, for making the claim that 85% of all running injuries could be prevented if we'd only run in the right shoes (that is matching our foot kinematics with the shoe). Where did mr. Rinaldi get the 85% figure? Not from any research because there isn't any that would support this claim. But alot of the beginning of his article talks about his gut feeling, so most likely, he pulled it from where he felt it.

Although there are zero papers showing that correctly matched running shoes reduce injury rate, there is a single paper, published in 2006 and available to Rinaldi when he did his 10 months of research for the article, showing that runners fit by the Sports Science Institute of South Africa Sports Medicine running shoe clinic had an equal frequency of injuries in the year following shoe purchase to matched runners that had not been to the clinic. Since some of the control group (those that had not been to the clinic) were getting professional advice on shoe fit, we might expect the difference in injury rate to be small. Indeed, if all of the control runners were getting professional advice, we expect the injury difference to be zero (assuming the advice was the same).

So maybe both groups were just getting good advice and the frequency of injury in both groups was low? The authors do not report the percentage of runners who were injured in the year following running shoe purchase, only the raw number of total injuries. The shoe-clinic group had 93 injuries and 94 runners. The control group had 115 injuries and 83 runners (note that the control group ran more and the frequency of injury/running day were very close). Clearly some runners had multiple injuries. Regardless, these must reflect high injury rates (typical statistics are something like 50-80% or runners are injure per year). So there is no evidence from this one study that correctly matching foot kinematics to running shoe will reduce injury rates at all much less 85%.

Schwellnus, MP and G Stubbs (2006). Does running shoe prescription alter the risk of developing a running injury? International SportMed Journal, Vol.7, pp. 138-153.

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