Injury-reduction effectiveness of prescribing running shoes on the basis of foot arch height: summary of military investigations

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Oct;44(10):805-12. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.5342. Epub 2014 Aug 25.


Study design: Secondary analysis of 3 randomized controlled trials. Objective Analysis of studies that examined whether prescribing running shoes on the basis of foot arch height influenced injury risk during military basic training.

Background: Prior to 2007, running magazines and running-shoe companies suggested that imprints of the bottom of the feet (plantar shape) could be used as an indication of foot arch height and that this could be used to select individually appropriate types of running shoes.

Methods: Similar studies were conducted in US Army (2168 men, 951 women), Air Force (1955 men, 718 women), and Marine Corps (840 men, 571 women) basic training. After foot examinations, recruits were randomized to either an experimental or a control group. Recruits in the experimental group selected or were assigned motion-control, stability, or cushioned shoes to match their plantar shape, which represented a low, medium, or high foot arch, respectively. The control group received a stability shoe regardless of plantar shape. Injuries during basic training were assessed from outpatient medical records.

Results: Meta-analyses that pooled results of the 3 investigations showed little difference between the experimental and control groups in the injury rate (injuries per 1000 person-days) for either men (summary rate ratio = 0.97; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.88, 1.06) or women (summary rate ratio = 0.97; 95% CI: 0.85, 1.08). When injury rates for specific types of running shoes were compared, there were no differences.

Conclusion: Selecting running shoes based on arch height had little influence on injury risk in military basic training.

Level of evidence: Prevention, level 1b.

Keywords: foot type; footprints; pronation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Foot / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Running / injuries*
  • Shoes*