Motion control shoes may reduce the injury risk in runners

by admin on March 4, 2010

I wonder how the barefoot running community will respond to this one? Despite claims by the anti-running shoe lobby, there is NO evidence that running shoes do any harm (see: Intellectual Dishonesty), now we have some research that shows that motion control shoes do some good. How will they respond to that?

Here is the abstract that appeared in the American Journal of Sports Medicine:

Motion Control Shoe Delays Fatigue of Shank Muscles in Runners With Overpronating Feet
Background: The motion control shoe is a well-developed technology in running shoe design for controlling excessive rearfoot pronation and plantar force distribution. However, there is little information on the leg muscle activation with different shoe conditions.
Hypothesis: The motion control shoe can prevent excessive shank muscle activation and delay fatigue.
Study Design: Controlled laboratory study.
Methods: Twenty female recreational runners with excessive rearfoot pronation were tested with running 10 km on a treadmill on 2 days. Participants wore either a motion control running shoe or neutral running shoe on each day. Activities of their right tibialis anterior and peroneus longus were recorded with surface electromyography. The normalized root-mean-square electromyography and median frequency were compared between the 2 shoe conditions.
Results: Significant positive correlations were found between the root-mean-square eletromyography and running mileage in both the tibialis anterior and peroneus longus in the neutral shoe condition (P <.001). The median frequency dropped in both shoe conditions with mileage, but paired t tests revealed a significantly larger drop in the neutral shoe (P < .001 for peroneus longus, P = .074 for tibialis anterior).
Conclusion: The motion control shoe may facilitate a more stable activation pattern and higher fatigue resistance of the tibialis anterior and peroneus longus in individuals with excessive rearfoot pronation during running.
Clinical Relevance: The motion control shoe may increase the running endurance, thus reduce overuse injuries, in athletes with unstable feet during long-distance running.

Now, if I was as irresponsible as some barefoot running websites in which they tout research they imagine supports barefoot running (see those two barefoot websites that lied here), I would be perfectly entitled to use this headline for the research: Motion Control Shoes Improve Endurance and Reduce Injuries.

Why can’t I say that? This is the way the barefoot running websites write headlines for research that they totally misrepresent to promote their cause. Why can’t I do the same? Maybe because I am not so blinded by an agenda. I know the research did not actually show that (which is something that the barefoot running community try to get away with all the time. See: Intellectual Dishonesty).

Lets take a closer look at the research and be honest about it:

  1. It was done on females, so the results may not apply to males (though there is no reason to doubt that it does not, but there are biomechanical differences between the way that males and females run).
  2. It was done on ‘pronators’, so the results cannot be generalized to non-pronators.
  3. It was done on a treadmill, so the gait there is not the same as overground running. It will be interesting if the anti-running shoe community are going to try and dismiss this study as it was done on a treadmill, but were happy to accept the Kerrigan et al study which was also done on a treadmill, but we know that those with an agenda like having things both ways.
  4.  They used the Adidas Supernova cushion and the Adidas Supernova control, so everything is ok there, except they probably should have used the term ‘cushion’ rather than ‘neutral’.
  5. I checked in with a professor who knows more than me about electromyography to see if there were any issues there and he had found no issues.
  6. It was funded by an independent grant and not by the running shoe industry.

What did they find?

This study compared the lower leg muscle recruitment with and without fatigue in recreational runners who have excessive foot pronation when running with different footwear. The results revealed that motion control footwear was able to maintain more stable activity in the TA and PL muscles and delay fatigue of these muscles with prolonged running better than neutral cushioned footwear.

That’s all they found. They did not find that “Motion Control Shoes Improve Endurance and Reduce Injuries”.

However, if we want to extrapolate and develop some theory from that research, then yes, the data is suggestive that there would be less fatigue in the leg muscles in those with a pronated foot when wearing a motion control shoe. This should translate to a better endurance performance and a theoretical reduction in injury risk. But, we are not as irresponsible to jump to definitive conclusions as this was not a study on endurance or injury (not like the barefoot running community who made up headlines about the Kerrigan et al study claiming that running shoes cause osteoarthritis, when it was not even a study on osteoarthritis!)

How will the barefoot running community respond to this study? My money is on they will ignore it as it does not fit in with their agenda.

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