James River Water Levels

Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 11.09'
Flow: 35600 cfps

Trail Conditions: Richmond

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Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

High Tide: 12:36am
Low Tide: 7:30am

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Your running shoes don’t matter

If you’ve read Born to Run or you’ve found that your injuries disappear when you put on Hokas, you’d be forgiven for thinking the science of running shoes was more settled.

In fact, no large-scale studies have uncovered a strong link between running shoe type and running injuries, and there’s no evidence that anything other than weight will affect your ability to run fast, as long as you remember that lighter is almost always better.

Still, there is lots of suggestive evidence that minimalist shoes might influence footstrike, and further evidence that certain kinds of footstrikes (landing on the forefoot, in particular) lead to softer landing patterns, and, perhaps, fewer injuries. But there are big caveats, and the evidence linking loading rates to injuries is mixed.

Testimonials from people running in, and loving, max-cushioned shoes such as the Hoka are hard to ignore, but so far they’re just testimonials. A five-month-long randomized, controlled study of 247 runners published this fall in theBritish Journal of Sports Medicine uncovered no difference in injury rates between runners who wore soft-soled shoes and those who wore firm-soled shoes. (The researchers did, however, find that body weight and training intensity affected injury rates.) Nor have researchers ever found a strong link between pronation and injury, so it’s no surprise that stability shoes don’t seem to help people who have been diagnosed as “over pronators.” One 2009 paper concluded, famously, that prescribing cushioned, motion-controlled shoes to distance runners was “not evidence-based.”

Likewise for Vibrams and other minimalist shoes. There’s no reason to doubt testimonials of dedicated wearers (I’m one), but it’s important to remember what we know about cushioning: adding or subtracting it just doesn’t significantly affect impact forces or running economy.


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