As podiatrists and runners, the doctors at Prairie Path Foot & Ankle have spent a long time trying to figure out ways in which running injuries can be prevented. And, as it turns out, Nike has, too!
Yup, that’s right…instead of just trying to come up with a sleek new design, or joining forces with an athlete or celebrity, Nike has used its power to create a shoe that claims, dare we say it, to be the ultimate answer to running-injury prevention.
Why Do Runners Get Hurt So Often?
This is a question that Nike has been exploring for the past 40 years. And what they discovered is important: there is no one reason why runners get injured, because every runner has different biomechanics.
And because every running injury is different, shoes that try to fight one injury cause—be it flat feet, heel striking, or the impact of the road—always fail a good portion of runners. So, instead of coming up with a shoe that tries to correct specific running problems, Nike took a different approach, creating a shoe that gives every runner a smoother stride.
Known as the Nike React Infinity Run (and launching in January of 2020), this new sneaker sits your foot deep inside the shoe. Then, according to VP of Nike Footwear, Bret Holts, they added, “a little bit of a clip” around the shoe’s perimeter. “Really, this shoe is not about controlling motion, controlling pronation, it’s just helping to smooth out and guide that foot through the transition,” Holts explained when announcing the new shoe’s launch.
So, that’s the theory behind the newest Nike’s. But the question remained…would they actually work? Well, luckily for us, Nike worked hard to definitively answer that question as well.
Can Science Back Up Nike’s Injury Prevention Claims?
After coming up with the prototype for the Nike Infinity, the shoe manufacturer decided to get outside help proving their injury-prevention claims. They launched an external study under the leadership of researchers at the British Columbia Sports Medicine Research Foundation.
Over time, the team in British Columbia found that 226 half-marathon runners were able to reduce their injury occurrences by 52 percent while wearing the Infinity, as compared to another Nike model designed to control pronation. "It's been incredible to see the impact this has had on runners of all levels," says Holt.
Jay Worobets, footwear research director at Nike Sport Research Lab, said, “We know that running injuries are a big deal, especially to runners, and how devastating they are. We also know that they’re not going away. For us, that meant listening to the voice of the athlete, and trying lots of different prototypes on athletes and seeing what feels good to them.”
And the prototype they came up with looks quite different from any other shoe currently on the marker. In addition to positioning your foot deeper in the shoe, the Infinity Run is also loaded with foam cushioning designed for optimal impact absorption. It has wider midsole nets that help improve your stability, and a rocker-like bottom that helps smooth out the transition between heel and toe strikes. The hope is that the trifecta of improved stability, cushioning and a smoother stride will fight any faulty running mechanics, dramatically reducing any runner’s injury rates.
Beyond Shoes: The Real Key to Preventing Running Injuries
Of course, as running podiatrists, we know that staying injury free is about so much more than just your sneakers. In order to avoid the hurt, you have to train wisely: building rest days into your routine, cross-training (especially with weights) and being wise when it’s time to increase your weekly mileage.
But do you want to know an even bigger secret? The most valuable tool in preventing running injuries is your ears…or, at least, it’s your ability to really listen to your body. Only you can know whether that running pain is the soreness of tired muscles, or the beginning of a big problem. If you notice pain that gets worse every time you run, and there’s any chance you might be injured, stop training right away, and take a few days off. If that brief rest period doesn’t help resolve your discomfort, it’s time to come on into your podiatrist’s office and get a good runner’s exam. That way we can keep you from exacerbating any existing injuries, and make sure you heal properly so you can enjoy running for years to come.