RUNNING SHOE STIFFNESS:THE EFFECT ON WALKING GAIT

  • S.N. Stanley
  • P.J. McNair
  • A.G. Walker
  • R.N. Marshall

Abstract

Sports shoes can be grouped into various categories based on their stability, protection capabilities, traction, impact characteristics and stiffness. The majority of shoe tests involve measures of traction and impact. Few studies have examined shoe sole stiffness. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to assess shoe sole stiffness by a materials testing procedure, and then examine the effect of shoe stiffness on walking gait. A damped oscillation technique, previously used on muscle-tendon complexes, was utilised to calculate the stiffness and the damping factor of six types of running shoes. The shoes used different rnidsole components which included air sacs, gel sacs, ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), and kevlar reinforcing. Two shoes at the extremes of the range were then selected from the materials test results for use in the subsequent gait analysis. Nine males ranging in age from 25 to 45 years (mean =36 years) participated in the experiment. Heights ranged from 186cm to 176cm (mean=182cm) and weights ranged from 72.5kg to 89kg (mean=8lkg). No subjects had any musculoskeletal problems affecting the lower limb. Two dimensional video data were collected on the right leg using an Ariel Video Analysis system sampling at 50 Hz, as subjects walked at 5.1 km/hr on a motor driven treadmill. Markers were placed on the greater trochanter, lateral condyle of the femur, lateral malleolus of the fibular, the heel of the shoe and on the shoe at the level of the fifth metatarsal head. Three stride cycles were collected after the subjects had walked on the treadmill for one minute. Data were digitised and downloaded to FMAP software to calculate kinematic variables such as knee and ankle angle and knee and ankle angular velocity. Data were then normalised to 50 points and averaged across stride cycles and subjects. Although a comparison of the stiff and flexible shoes indicated no differences in the kinematic parameters (p>0.05), it may be that the muscles of the lower limb adjust their activity level for the stiffness of the shoe to maintain an invariant kinematic pattern.
Section
Coaching and Sports Activities