Rotating Your Running Shoes is Great…But Don't Miss the Bigger Picture

Runners have a shoe obsession.

It's true.

We just can't help it.

We hoard shoes.

Read about shoes.

Buy multiple pairs of shoes at the same time.

Read about how to make our shoes last longer…

It's a whooolle ordeal.

Not necessarily a problem.

But it's a thing.

Especially when it comes to the "right" shoe.

The "right" shoe (or shoes) is almost sacred.

It has the power to keep injury at bay.

To make our runs feel almost effortless.

And with the right strategy, we can prolong this miraculous state.

Enter: Rotating running shoes.

Being honest, I've always wondered about this. Does it really do everything it's said to do? Or is it partly urban legend?

Rotating running shoes has been touted to:

  • allow the foam to fully regenerate which apparently can take up to 24 hours. By waiting and allowing the shoe to rest, you supposedly won't need to replace them as frequently

  • decreased risk of injury

  • be more cost effective (yes, you spend more buying 2 pairs of shoes, but supposedly by switching between 2 pairs your shoes last longer)

  • improve your runs by wearing different shoes for different terrain (Malisoux & Theisen, 2020)

Make of these as you will and follow accordingly…but one of these stuck out to me; that rotating running shoes can decrease your chance of a running injury. I've read a lot of research articles as a doctor of physical therapy, but hadn't seen any article exploring this in the recent years.

Until recently.

Believe it or not, this is a relatively NEW area to be explored and either be proved true or debunked.

So naturally, let's solve this together: Does rotating your running shoes really decrease your risk of injury? Or is there more to this picture and what's missing?

Let's dive in…

Theory #1: Multiple Running shoes is a protective factor against injury

Short version: Scientists are still exploring the "why" and "how" behind this, because there's frankly NOT a whole lot of data out there surrounding this issue.

However, an EXCELLENT start has been made to close this gap. This particular study that was published in 2013 and it's been well-cited and used by various running publishers.

The goal of the study was to determine whether runners who rotate through running shoes are less likely to sustain a running related injury (Malisoux, et al., 2013).

Everyone is very quick to note that this study concluded that "the parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes" results in a 38.9% potential decrease in injury.

Pretty darn cool, right? Now we have a science-backed reason to buy more running shoes!)

However…there's more to the study that other publications tended to overlook, potentially. Look at the study's hypothesis:

"It was hypothesized that runners using concomitantly more than one pair of shoes would be at a lower risk of sustaining a running related injury. A secondary hypothesis was that the practice of other sports would be a protective factor as this also allows a variation of the type of stress applied to the body.