February 9, 2018
Professor Emeritus Joseph Hamill and postdoctoral research associate Gillian Weir of the Kinesiology Department recently published an article about the importance of reconsidering how researchers assess the effect of running shoes on the risk for running-related injuries. The article, titled “Running shoes and injury risk: Rethinking the importance of cushioning and pronation,” appeared in Lower Extremity Review Magazine.
In the piece, Hamill and Weir explain that conventional methods of evaluating running footwear that have been used since running became popular in the 1970s may not be the best indicator of risk. Up until recently, researchers had focused on measuring and improving two aspects of footwear: shoe cushioning, to reduce the force from the foot coming in contact with the ground, and increasing stability of the heel, to prevent pronation. They point out that even though the design of running shoes has greatly improved over the years, with these features in mind, there has not been a decrease in the rates of running-related injuries.
While footwear manufacturers and researchers still continue to rely on these measures for evaluating risk, there has been some movement towards new methods of evaluation, according to the article. Hamill and Weir suggest two different new paradigms for future research, among several that they identified. The first is an approach called “preferred movement path” developed by biomechanist Benno Nigg, who suggests that each person has a unique movement path and that deviation from that path, due to factors such as footwear, could result in a higher risk for injury. The second method uses individuals’ Habitual Joint Motion Path of the knee to examine the impact of footwear. This paradigm involves comparing the knee when in a squat position to the position of the knee while running and assessing what type of footwear would be best, based on the differences.
Hamill and Weir conclude the article by promoting the potential value of using new paradigms to evaluate footwear.