Sprinter Footwear

Too thick? Too thin? Or… JUST RIGHT??!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying… what shoe do YOU do?

Some runners prefer shoes with thick midsoles. They’re comfy and absorb shock. Others complain that cushioned shoes ruin their strides and make their legs sore! What’s really happening?

Enter Nicholas Holowka from the University of Buffalo and team! They studied how midsole squishy-ness affects muscle stiffness in legs and feet.

Twenty experienced runners ran in four trials. Once with bare feet. Then, wearing three custom sandals with different cushion levels. 

Why sandals? To observe their feet! Runners were videotaped running on fancy treadmills that recorded force. Special reflectors on their legs and feet helped calculate how hard they slammed down. 

Results? Midsoles did NOT compress their legs or the arches of their feet more – not even the thickest one! While squishy, the material is still too stiff to cause changes. HOWEVER, there IS a difference compared to running barefoot. With shoes, their arches compressed LESS. 

So – no worries, soft-soled runners! 

Be a SHOE-in Olympian -with comfy feet!

Reference: Holowka, N. B., Gillinov, S. M., Virot, E., & Lieberman, D. E. (2022). Effects of footwear cushioning on leg and longitudinal arch stiffness during running. Journal of Biomechanics, 133, 110869. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbiomech.2021.110869