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Adolescent Runners May Be Better Off Ditching Cushioned Heel Trainers

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Nowadays, many athletes run in cushioned heel trainers but that may not be the best choice for the long term and may affect performance in a negative way. These are the conclusions drawn by a research team from the University of Kansas Hospital, which examined the impact of running shoes (or lack thereof) on the biomechanics of adolescent runners. The researchers presented the findings of their study during this year´s meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Science Daily reported.

The 12 study participants were competitive athletes recruited locally. They were asked to run on a treadmill at four different speeds, wearing large heel running shoes, track flats and no shoes at all. A motion capture system was used to measure their biomechanics – a term covering stride length, heel height during posterior swing phase and foot/ground contact.

As explained by Dr Scott Mullen, University of Kansas Hospital orthopaedic surgeon, the team wanted to determine whether a change in shoes or running speed would trigger a change in foot strike in adolescents. The results showed that shoe type affected “dramatically” the biomechanics of the study subjects. Athletes running in cushioned heel trainers landed on their heels 69.8% of the time regardless of the speed. The figure was less than 35% when the subjects were wearing track flats and less than 30% when they ran barefoot. A heel-strike running pattern is associated with cushioned heel trainers, while track flats or absence of shoes promotes a forefoot or mid-foot strike pattern. According to the findings of a 2010 study, forefoot strike could be healthier for runners in the long term, potentially leading to fewer problems with hips and knees, Dr Mullen added.