Saturday, February 11, 2012

Running shoes: Science vs Experience.

Research shows that running without shoes reduces long-term stress on bones and joints.
Those are the findings of a pair of studies by Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. He found runners who use a forefoot strike face a significantly lower risk of repetitive stress injuries, and barely there running shoes produce more efficient movement than conventional kicks.
The two studies, published this month in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, come less than two years after Lieberman’s earlier work found runners wearing minimalist shoes put less force into the ground, therefore less force on their bodies, when striking the ground with their forefoot versus their rearfoot.

It would be logical then for runners to switch to a new, minimalist style of shoes that enable running closest  to barefoot. Unfortunately, such shoes produce short-term injuries on uneven surfaces. Here's what one runner had to say about them:
But as I left paved road for dirt trail, I got my first lesson in the limits of minimal running. I landed on an angular rock concealed in the dirt, which felt as if a needle had been thrust into my heel. The pain had just begun wearing off a few minutes later when I landed on a stone hidden beneath fallen leaves – same foot, same spot. To say that I wanted to cry would understate how much it hurt.

The ideal running shoe would have the best of both worlds: encourage natural style of running and prevent short-term injuries. In the absence of such shoe, the short-term injuries are going to dominate runner's experience. Therefore, we can predict that the minimal shoe innovation will fail to become a dominant design in the shoe industry.

On the other hand, it may produce better results for professional runners and gain acceptance through high-profile endorsements as a backup pair for running on smooth surfaces.

tags: innovation, invention, science, technology, psychology, biology

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