Saturday 18 November 2017

Forget your fancy €250 runners – plain trainers make for fewer injuries

Joggers who wear minimal runners with little or no padding and land on the balls of their feet put less demand on their bodies
Joggers who wear minimal runners with little or no padding and land on the balls of their feet put less demand on their bodies

Rod Minchin

Those €250 super-cushioned runners on many a Christmas wish list might be the height of fashion, but they could end up being a pain in the neck.

Joggers who wear minimal runners with little or no padding and land on the balls of their feet put less demand on their bodies, new research suggests.

However, those who wear cushioned runners and land on their heels experience an abrupt vertical impact force each time the foot lands on the ground.

Researchers compared how quickly the force acts when runners’ feet hit the ground – known as the loading rate – which has been shown to influence injury risk, which can reach as far as the shoulders and neck.

The study of 29 joggers found significantly lower loading rates for those who wore minimal trainers and landed on the ball of their foot compared with people in normal – and often a

lot more expensive –running shoes.

“So many people use running as a means of reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but about three-quarters of runners get injured in a year,” said lead researcher Dr Hannah Rice.

“Footwear is easily modifiable, but many runners are misguided when it comes to buying new trainers.

“This research shows that running in minimal shoes and landing on the balls of your feet reduces loading rates and may therefore reduce the risk of injury.”

Running continues to grow in popularity – hundreds turn out every Saturday for Dublin’s parkruns – but injury rates have not fallen despite decades of research aimed at reducing them.

Modern-day runners in cushioned footwear tend to land on the heel, known as a rearfoot strike, while those who run barefoot are more likely to land on the ball of the foot – a forefoot strike.

Total force seems to be similar between foot strikes if wearing modern, cushioned runners.

“This seems to suggest that, for runners in traditional, cushioned running shoes, foot strike pattern may not matter much for injury risk,” said Dr Rice.

“However, we suspected that the same may not be true of runners who regularly use minimal shoes, which don’t have all that  cushioning provided by traditional running shoes.

“Our research tells us that

becoming used to running with a forefoot strike in shoes without cushioning promotes a landing with low loading rates, which may reduce risk of injury.”

Any transition to new footwear or to a different foot strike pattern should be undertaken gradually and with guidance, Dr Rice added.

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