Sunday, July 8, 2018

Influence Of Maximalist Running Shoes On Biomechanics

My patient's new running shoes
I had a runner come in to our clinic today. After finishing the Boston marathon in April recently, he had been taking it easy. But since his next race is the New York marathon later on 4th November this year, he started training again just this past week.

After asking the necessary questions regarding his training, I then noticed he was wearing a new pair of maximalist  running shoes. He'd bought it after running Boston as it was a lot cheaper there than in Singapore.

My patient thought that the mega cushioned maximalist shoes would help protect him from the pounding that comes with the running (since he's in excess of 6 feet). 

It was then really fortunate that I'd recently just read an article on the influence of maximalist running shoes on running biomechanics.
Women's NB 880
In that study, researchers had 15 female runners tested by running 5 km on two occasions on a treadmill. Each time, their running biomechanics were analysed before and after running in a pair of "traditional" New Balance (NB) 880 which had a heel height of 33.3 millimetres and forefoot height of 23.2 mm versus a Hoka One One Bondi 4 (41.6 mm heel, 34.7 mm forefoot height). 
Hoka One One Bondi 4
It is important to note here that the runners were more accustomed to shoes like the NB than the Hokas.

Before reading the article, it seemed logical to me to expect the plush mega cushioned shoes would be more supportive for the tested runners.

However, runners in that study had greater vertical loading rates (the speed at which impact forces affect the body) and peak impact forces (maximum amount of force incurred at one time) in the Hokas than the NB shoes. Meaning, when the runners wore the more cushioned Hokas, the bodies absorbed more of the impact forces of running and in less time. While wearing the regular NB shoes, the impact forces of each step were lower and more evenly spread over time.

The authors noted that even though all the tested runners were assessed to be heel strikers, the higher impact forces while wearing the Hokas cannot be totally attributed to a change in foot strike pattern. In other studies, running in mega cushioned shoes result in runners landing with stiffer knees, resulting in higher impact forces.

Another point to note is that the runners in this study were new to maximalist shoes. I don't know about you, for me, if I get a new shoe to run in (or new tennis racket or any new equipment), my body takes a while to get used to it and run efficiently with it. (Note: even my wife who got a new iPhone X previously took a while before she liked it).

Previously, when minimalist running shoes were more popular caution was advised when trying those shoes. This study suggest such caution if your new running shoes have significantly more cushioning than your previous.

It will be interesting to note what happens to the impact forces when you get used to the maximalist running shoes. The authors of this study are now conducting follow up research on the same runners. The runners are monitored by starting with 20 percent of the weekly mileage in the Hokas, and adding 20 percent the next week and so on.

As I've suggested before, it's probably wiser if you have a few different pair of running shoes so that you can rotate your running shoes to minimize your risk of injury. Now, which runner can resist getting another pair of running shoes to run in?


Pollard CD Ter Har JA et al (2018). Influence Of Maximal Running Shoes On Biomechanics Before And After A 5k Run. Orth J Sp Med. 6(6): 2325967118775720. DOI: 10.1177/2325967118775720.

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