Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 17th 2013 Contents Previous running experience more than halved a runner's injury risk relative to those with no experience.
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, October 17, 2013
Soft cushioning in shoes has been
marketed to runners as extra shock-
absorption to prevent injuries, but in a
new study the added padding made no
difference in who got hurt.
Researchers tested identical-looking
shoes with different levels of cushioning
in a blind trial with nearly 250 regular
runners and found factors like body weight
and overall fitness made some difference
to injury rates, but shoe-softness did not.
"The results do not support the com-
mon argument from the running shoe
industry that runners with higher body
mass should be recommended shoes with
greater shock-absorption characteristics,"
said lead author Daniel Theisen of the
Sports Medicine Research Laboratory of
the Department of Public Health in Lux-
Based on research showing that cush-
ioning can relieve certain mechanical
stresses on the body, Theisen, a physical
therapist with a PhD in sports science
and a runner himself, says he fully expect-
ed to see a difference.
But past tests of extra cushioning under
real-world conditions, such as US Air
Force recruits in basic training, have not
shown a clear benefit, Theisen and his
colleagues write in the British Journal of
So Theisen s team set up what it
believes to be the first randomised, dou-
ble-blind controlled trial of whether shoe
sponginess affects running-related injuries
in leisure runners.
The researchers recruited runners
through newspaper advertisements and
Internet sites and randomly divided the
247 participants into two groups. The
men and women were all between the
ages of 30 and 50-years-old, had body
mass indexes (a measure of weight relative
to height) ranging from normal to slightly
overweight and all ran a minimum of 10
miles a week.
Participants got shoes provided by "a
renowned sports equipment manufac-
turer," according to the report, which
were customised versions of a model sold
in stores. There were no identifying dec-
orations on the shoes, and all appeared
identical except that half of the pairs had
a soft midsole---a spongy layer beneath
the insole of the shoe s interior. The dif-
ference in shock absorbing qualities
between the shoes with and without the
extra cushioning was calculated to be
about 15 per cent.
According to Theisen, this was the
greatest difference possible while still
producing a shoe that looked the same
to users. Even the researchers did not
know which participants received the
The runners were required to train at
least once a week, to only use the shoes
for running and to report their training
data and any injuries. Participants used
the shoes for five months, and posted
information about how much they ran
and what kinds of injuries they experi-
enced on a dedicated Internet platform.
The researchers defined an injury as pain
from running experienced for the first
time that stopped the user from running
for at least one day.
Out of the 69 runners whose injuries
were counted, 32 used the hard-soled
sneakers, and 37 used the softer-soled
shoes. According to Theisen, the bulk of
injuries were chronic overload injuries of
tendons, joints and muscles. "We eval-
uated the severity of the injury by looking
at how many days people were not able
to do their normal running training and
or whether they stopped running alto-
gether," he told Reuters Health.
Although the researchers found no sig-
nificant difference in injuries based on
shoe cushioning, they did note some dif-
ferences related to runners body mass
and other individual traits and behav-
Heavier runners were about 13 per cent
more likely to have injuries than those in
the normal weight range---and shoe soft-
ness did not modify that extra risk for
heavy runners who got the softer shoes.
Having a previous injury added about 75
per cent to runners injury risk and high-
er-intensity training added 39 per cent
to the risk.
In contrast, previous running experi-
ence more than halved a runner s injury
risk relative to those with no experience.
And participants with the highest levels
of weekly participation in other types of
sports had about 30 per cent lower risk
of running injuries.
Theisen says the results suggest that
running style and other personal factors
outweigh shoe qualities in determining
injury risk. Individuals tend to adapt their
running style based on the pattern of
how their feet strike the surface, he said.
Although the study did not analyse this
factor, the authors think this adaptation
cancels out the shock-absorbing char-
acteristics of the soft-cushioned shoes.
The difference between the study shoe
models may also have been too small to
detect a difference, he notes. In general,
however, Theisen thinks the study results
"make good sense because our ancestors
were great runners but they never wore
Several major athletic shoe manufac-
turers contacted by Reuters Health did
not respond to requests for comment on
Dr Mark P Kelly, an exercise physiol-
ogist with the American Council on Exer-
cise and a veteran runner himself, was
not surprised by the findings. He agrees
that biomechanics are more important
than cushioning when it comes to injury
"When people run with the proper
biomechanics, they are going to have
fewer injuries," he told Reuters Health.
If anything, cushioning "takes away
from the tactile sensation that tends to
protect a runner," Kelly said. "In other
words, if something hurts our feet when
we are jogging, we will naturally change
things up so it doesn t hurt. If anything,
a harder midsole offers more protection,
because it may induce more stability on
the plantar surface of the foot and thus
spread the impact out more evenly."
"The more we learn about running the
more we are learning that more cushion
and support is not only not better but
may actually be worse."
Extra-padded shoes may
not blunt running injuries
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