Running shoes with a heavy cushioned heel may alter running biomechanics in adolescents, according to research presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Chicago.
The study included 12 adolescent competitive athletes. Each participant ran on a treadmill in large heel trainers, track flats and barefoot at four different speeds for each condition. Biomechanics were measured with a motion capture system.
“What we were trying to evaluate is whether or not the foot strike would change in an adolescent, who doesn’t yet have a permanently established gait, when they changed their shoe or running speed,” Scott Mullen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Kansas Hospital, stated in a news release.
The researchers found that shoe type had a significant effect on running biomechanics. The athletes landed on their heel 69.8% of the time when wearing the cushioned heel trainers at all speeds, but while wearing the track flats, the heel was the first point of contact less than 35% of the time and less than 30% while barefoot.
“What we found is that simply by changing their footwear, the runners’ foot strike would change,” Mullen stated. “When they ran in the cushioned heel or an average running shoe, even when running a 5-minute mile, the athletes landed on their heel first.”
Previous research showed that heel strike running distributes more energy to hips and knees, so running in flat- soled shoes that promote a forefoot strike may “present a healthier foot strike for runners over a lifetime, possibly resulting in fewer hip and knee problems,” Mullen said.