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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sport injuries and shoes: cheaper is best

Researchers at the University of Newcastle have found no scientific evidence to support claims that commonly recommended running shoes prevent injuries in runners. This is rather well known and not a new revelation by any means. The basic assumption is shoes (by themself) prevent injuries but there is certainly no evidence to prove this. Common sense would suggest a good (comfortable) pair of sport shoes capable of enduring the stresses of a prolonged activity would allow the foot to function at optimal efficiency. This is the basic premise we all hold true but manufacturers do tend to overplay this with their marketing rhetoric. Claims made by sports shoes manufacturers usually relate to patented materials or systems strategically incorporated within the shoe design. In the absence of evidence based outcomes however advertisers are now ‘cooling their heels’ about overstating their claims for their shoes. Particularly since there is increasing evidence to support some additions to shoes are likely to contribute to injury. Independent surveys from around the world consistently reinforce budget shoes match more expensive shoes in terms of structure and make up. Research from the Institute of Motion Analysis & Research, University of Dundee would support cheap sport shoes are as good as more extensive brands. Under test conditions shoe properties vary with brands and for different areas of the foot but overall shoes exhibit similar characteristics regardless of brand or price. The Dundee researchers concluded when buying sport shoes the key is to find a pair of shoes that fit the foot (comfortable) and ignore the price. ‘Cheap sports shoes are a false economy’ is a fallacy promulgated by quality shoe retailers. I have been involved in a couple of research surveys of marathon runners and reported injuries. The findings were consistent and runners wearing cheaper shoes were less likely to report injury and more likely to replace worn shoes more frequently. The vast majority of sport shoes are sold for fashion and not sport, manufacturer’s priority is to produce a shoe that looks good on the streets with less emphasis of making athletes’ feet comfortable on the track. The most important factor is to buy a shoe that is comfortable and designed for the particular activity you wish to put it too. Care and maintenance are important and worn shoes need to be replaced. The midsole layer of a shoe provides the cushioning and stability and this area usually wears out before the outsole shows major signs of wear. Once a shoe looses its functional stability this increases the risk of stress and subsequent injury. Running shoes should be replaced approximately every 350-550 miles depending on your running style, body weight, and the surface on which you run. For runners who log 25 miles per week shoes should be replaced every three to four months. Frequent runners should rotate their shoes.

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