Joseph J. Knapik, ScD; Rodney Pope, PhD; Robin Orr, PhD; Tyson Grier, MS

Injuries and Footwear (Part 1): Athletic Shoe History and Injuries in Relation to Foot Arch Height and Training in Boots

This article traces the history of the athletic shoe, examines whether selecting running shoes based on foot arch height influences injuries, and examines historical data on injury rates when physical training (PT) is performed in boots versus running shoes. In the 1980s and into the 2000s, running shoe companies were advertising specialized shoes with “motion control,” “stability,” and “cushioning,” designed for individuals with low, normal, and high arches, respectively. Despite marketing claims that these shoes would reduce injury rates, coordinated studies in Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps basic training showed that assigning or selecting shoes on this basis had no effect on injury rates. Consistent with this finding,
biomechanical studies have shown that the relationships between arch height, foot joint mobility, and rear-foot motion are complex, variable, and frequently not as strong as often assumed. In 1982, the US Army switched from PT in boots to PT in running shoes because of the belief that boots were causing injuries and that running shoes would reduce injury rates. However, a historical comparison of injury rates before and after the switch to running shoes showed virtually no difference in injury risk between the two periods. It is not clear at this point if the type of footwear effects injury incidence. 

Part 1 in PDF (for private use only)

Injuries and Footwear (Part 2): Minimalist Running Shoes

This article defines minimalist running shoes and examines physiological, biomechanical, and injury rate differences when running in conventional versus minimalist running shoes. A minimalist shoe is one that provides “minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot, because of its high flexibility, low heel to toe drop, weight and stack height, and the absence of motion control and stability devices.” Most studies indicate that running in minimalist shoes results in a lower physiological energy cost than running in conventional shoes, likely because of the lower weight of the minimalist shoe. Most individuals running in conventional shoes impact the ground heel first (rearfoot strike pattern), whereas most people running in minimalist shoes tend to strike with the front of the foot (forefoot strike pattern). The rate at which force is developed on ground impact (i.e., the loading rate) is generally higher when running in conventional versus minimalist shoes. Findings from studies that have looked at associations between injuries and foot strike patterns or injuries and loading rates are conflicting, so it is not clear if these factors influence injury rates; more research is needed. Better-designed prospective studies indicate that bone stress injuries and the overall injury incidence are higher in minimalist shoes during the early weeks (10–12 weeks) of transition to this type of footwear. Longer-term studies are needed to define injury rates once runners are fully transitioned to minimalist shoes. At least one longer-term minimalist-shoe investigation is ongoing and, hopefully, will be published soon.

Part 2 in PDF (for private use only)