Shoe Re­search

Canadian Running - - ALEX HUTCHINSON -

Placebo-con­trolled run­ning shoes? It seems like an odd idea, but that’s the ap­proach re­searchers at the Lux­em­bourg In­sti­tute of Health’s Sports Medicine Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory have taken to test the in­jury-pre­ven­tion prow­ess of var­i­ous shoe fea­tures. Work­ing with the French sport­ing goods gi­ant De­cathlon, they give their sub­jects shoes that are su­per­fi­cially iden­ti­cal, differing only in one sub­tle as­pect. For ex­am­ple, their most re­cent study, pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Sports Medicine, var­ied the height dif­fer­ence be­tween the heel and toe, with a heel el­e­vated by zero, six or 10 mm. Af­ter six months, about a quar­ter of the 553 run­ners in the study had suf­fered an in­jury – but de­spite claims that “zero-drop” shoes might re­duce in­jury risk, there were no clear dif­fer­ences be­tween the shoe groups.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies from the same group, led by re­searcher Lau­rent Mal­isoux, in­ves­ti­gated the ef­fect of mid­sole stiff­ness, which also didn’t seem to mat­ter, and mo­tion con­trol, which did. In the lat­ter study, pub­lished last year in the Bri­tish Jour­nal of Sports Medicine, run­ners who were di­ag­nosed with a “pronated” foot on a scale called the Foot Pos­ture In­dex were 66 per cent less likely to get in­jured if they re­ceived the ver­sion of the shoe with mo­tion con­trol fea­tures – in this case, a piece of rigid plas­tic and a du­alden­sity mid­sole to re­strict the in­ward roll of the foot. Mal­isoux has more stud­ies planned, with the goal of bring­ing im­par­tial ev­i­dence to a field plagued in re­cent years by seem­ingly end­less de­bates. For now, though, his pri­mary ad­vice to shoe-buy­ers is sim­ple: what­ever shoe you choose, make sure it fits and feels com­fort­able, since your in­tu­ition may re­flect the way your foot prefers to move.

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