Linking current research to running
By Nikki Reiter
I have often held the belief that you will run your best in the shoe that feels most comfortable on your foot. I used to work in a specialty running store and, anecdotally, I was proven correct by observing that customers selected the shoe they think feels best – and that trying to force oneself into a shoe that was not quite ‘right’ never prevailed. To my amusement, this hypothesis was confirmed nearly five years ago when at a conference I asked world-renowned biomechanist and shoe expert, Dr. Benno Nigg, how to select a running shoe. His response was concurrent with the concept of choosing the shoe that is most comfortable.
Thus, I was particularly intrigued when I came across this article that examined biomechanical variables related to the perception of comfort in running shoes. These researchers investigated how individuals perceive comfort in four different types of shoes and then related these comfort perceptions to biomechanical variables obtained from ground reaction forces and plantar pressures.
Here’s how it went: 22 recreational runners ran overground at approximately eight-minute mile pace wearing the four different running shoe cushioning technologies: ‘Gel,’ ‘Air,’ ‘EVA’ and ‘Adiprene+’. Runners were asked questions related to perception of comfort, then researchers noted the biomechanical parameters of them running in all four shoes.
The result: No significant relationship was determined for perception of comfort and biomechanical variables for the ‘Gel,’ ‘Air,’ and ‘EVA’ shoes. The prediction of perceived comfort of the Adiprene+ shoe, however, was found to be partially related to loads over the forefoot.
What this means: Based on the results of this study, it is suggested that perception of comfort in a running shoe cannot generally be predicted by biomechanical variables. This would further indicate that running shoe researchers cannot predict how well a shoe will be embraced by runners until it is out of the lab and hits the market!
A final comment: While cushioning the impacts experienced during running is thought to somehow be related to injury prevention, the exact biomechanical parameter(s) related running injury has yet to be universally accepted. This article investigated how well runners are capable of perceiving how well a running shoe can cushion impact forces – a ‘step’ in the right direction!
Nikki Reiter is a Biomechanist and certified NCCP Performance Coach in Endurance Running. She offers online gait analysis through Run Right Gait Analysis. Visit her website www.run-right.ca for more information.