Of course, preventing injury isn’t the only intended benefit of a bouncy sole. Some manufacturers tout the energy return their sneakers offer, meaning how much of the force you strike the ground with gets returned to your leg, propelling it up. The idea is that this bounce lets you use less energy per stride, allowing you to run faster for longer. But how well a shoe works for you depends on your individual stride, and heavy foams can nullify any benefit because the weight is making you work more with every step.

So what should a runner look for in a shoe? Nigg’s research suggests that picking the most comfortable shoe is going to be your best option.

Comfort is subjective, and Nigg’s theory hasn’t been tested in controlled experiments. Still, Bartold also believes that, based on the research, comfort should be a factor.

Your best bet is to go talk to an expert at a sneaker shop about what you’re looking for and how you’re going to use the shoe, such what surface you’ll be running on and those sorts of factors. A lot of retailers already offer this sort of service to some degree. Narrow the options down to three pairs. One will probably not feel right straight away, so get rid of that one. Then, of the two remaining, pick the most comfortable one.

He cautions, however, that “runners and the sports-medicine community are looking for a magic bullet” when no such thing exists. There’s nothing wrong with minimalist running shoes or cushioned shoes, but there’s no one shoe that works for everyone or every situation. Our bodies all move a little differently and have different needs. Pay attention to that, and don’t worry about the flashy features and marketing.

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