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running shoes increase risk of injury -- did Nike make us fatter?

Stumbled across this Daily Mail article about running shoes a while back. It claims that every year, 65 to 80 per cent of all runners suffer an injury -- regardless of fitness level or experience. It quotes Dr. Daniel Lieberman, professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University: "Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet and had a much lower incidence of knee injuries."

Lieberman believes that modern running shoes make people more likely to be injured; therefore they exercise less, and are more likely to suffer from heart disease and other maladies. The modern running shoe was essentially invented by Nike, so in addition to the growing problem of sweatshop labor conditions, I have to ask: can we lay the obesity epidemic partly at Nike's feet?

According to the Daily Mail,

In a paper for the British Journal Of Sports Medicine last year, Dr Craig Richards, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, revealed there are no evidence-based studies that demonstrate running shoes make you less prone to injury. Not one.

It was an astonishing revelation that had been hidden for over 35 years. Dr Richards was so stunned that a $20 billion industry seemed to be based on nothing but empty promises and wishful thinking that he issued the following challenge: "Is any running-shoe company prepared to claim that wearing their distance running shoes will decrease your risk of suffering musculoskeletal running injuries? Is any shoe manufacturer prepared to claim that wearing their running shoes will improve your distance running performance? If you are prepared to make these claims, where is your peer-reviewed data to back it up?"

Dr Richards waited and even tried contacting the major shoe companies for their data. In response, he got silence.

For the past few weeks I've shelved my New Balance cross-trainers and been doing my Wednesday morning run in flat-bottomed Chuck Taylor style sneakers. (Since Converse is now owned by Nike, I recommend alternative shoes made by responsible companies with good labor practices, such as No Sweat and Ethletic.) The first few times I could feel my calves and ankles working harder, but I've noticed that my knees and hips are less sore after a run in the simple sneakers than they were getting with the cross trainers.


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