If you’re a runner, you’ve probably heard the advice to change your shoes, not just to replace them, but for different runs in a week. I have two different pairs of runners of different styles and brands. They both have a low heel-to-toe drop but in most other ways they are quite different. I like both pairs, but I have my favourite. When I’m not running a lot I tend default to my favourite pair more often. It got me wondering what the benefits are, if any, to using multiple pairs of shoes within the same time period.
The reason behind using multiple pairs of shoes is injury. Because running is a repetitive action it has the potential to cause overuse injuries. The theory behind changing your shoes is that each pair will result in slightly different patterns of force and motion through your body. Because the patterns are slightly different, your body experiences less overuse and therefore less overuse injuries. But does it work?
Malisoux et al (2015) found that recreational runners who used more than one pair of running shoes had 39% fewer overuse running injuries than individuals using only a single pair of running shoes. The group with more than one pair tended to use their main pair no more than 58% of the time. Other factors that seemed to contribute to lower rates of injury included: no previous injury, participation in other sports (encourages more balanced muscle use), and increased distance (this may relate to decreased speed or decreased frequency of runs but this research did not consider the issue further).
Read: Running and knee health for more on the science of running injuries and prevention.