If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years it’s that both research and individual experience (yes, anecdotal evidence!) can be equally valuable sources of information when attempting to make decisions about which type of shoe to wear, whether or not to change your running form, which training methods to employ, etc. In fact, I’ve written about the topic a number of times, both on this blog and in my book.
I wanted to take a moment to point you to a great post by physiotherapist Tom Goom titled “Research isn’t everything…” Like me, Tom sees value in scientific research, but also realizes that research studies can often have major limitations, one of which is that they often favor group mean responses over individual responses. Tom realizes that if a particular treatment method (e.g., icing) continually shows beneficial results for some subset of his patients, he’s not going to abandon it simply because research results are inconclusive.
Here’s an excerpt where Tom shares a bit of his point of view on the subject:
“Research is part of our reasoning process, not the entirety of it. Experience and individual circumstances make up much of our decision making process. So ice may not have great research but I’ve seen it work for hundreds of people so I will continue to recommend it. Warm-up may not have concrete evidence to show it reduces injury risk but I feel a whole lot more comfortable running if I’ve warmed up properly so I’ll keep doing it. The literature on running shoes might be inconclusive but when a patient presents with plantar fasciitis and can’t even walk barefoot I won’t be telling them to run barefoot!”
In much the same way, there was no chance I was going to stop any of the runner’s at mile 50 of the VT100 ultra this weekend (I crewed a friend) and tell them that the Hoka One One shoes they were wearing might be a bad idea since there is no scientific evidence showing that they provide any benefit in an ultra! If anything, I left the race really curious to finally give the ultra-cushioned shoes a try myself given how many of the faster runners had them on (and yes, I have video!). These people have done ridiculous amounts of mileage, probably in a variety of shoes, and they know what works best for their bodies in various circumstances.