News on shoes
If the Sports Shoe Fits, Wear It
By Alison Palkhivala
WebMD Medical News, Reviewed By Gary Vogin, MD

June 12, 2001 -- When it comes to sports (running) shoes, don't believe the
hype. A new study shows that the fancy features you see advertised don't do
much to reduce injuries to the feet. Experts agree the most important feature
for that is a good fit, and that Nike, New Balance, and their peers have yet
to put together a shoe that does any better than Mother Nature's original
design.

"One of the most important aspects of modern footwear was the incorporation
of special features to reduce the risk of injury," says Regan Emile Arendse,
MBChB, who presented the study findings at a recent sports medicine
conference. "Unfortunately, despite more than 21 years of sports
(running)-shoe research and development, the injury rates of runners/walkers
is no different to that reported in the late 1970s."

According to Arendse, who is a sports medicine physician at the Sports
Science Institute of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, running shoes
and other footwear are designed primarily using two-dimensional techniques
for imaging the foot. Such techniques have been used to develop
running/walking shoes marketed as "antipronation," meaning they are intended
to prevent the ankle from falling too far inward or outward while running in
order to help prevent injuries.

Given that our feet, like the rest of us, live in a 3D universe, Arendse and
his colleagues decided to use three-dimensional imaging techniques to see
what's really going on with the feet while they're running in a pair of
specially designed running/walking shoes.

The investigators examined 12 healthy male runners while they ran at three
different speeds wearing regular running shoes, running shoes marketed as
antipronation, or no shoes at all. Using three-dimensional technology to
assess the movement of the runners' ankles and feet, the researchers found no
difference in ankle movement in the athletes wearing the regular running
shoes and the ones wearing the antipronation shoes. In fact, they found that
the feet actually moved less when the runners were barefoot than with either
type of shoe.

The take-home message is not to buy running shoes just because of
advertisings claims or because of price -- either expensive or cheap -- says
Brian G. Donley, MD, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon at the Cleveland
Foundation in Ohio.

"The most important thing is to buy a shoe that fits you well," he says. "You
need to go around the store and feel comfortable in it. That's the shoe
that's best for you. You also want to make sure that it has a wide enough
area in the toe box to accommodate your foot. If you buy a shoe that's a
little too short, runners and active walkers will hit their toes
repetitively, ... which can cause damage to the toenail."

Paul D. Walton, DC, CCSP, professor of clinical science at Life College of
Chiropractic West, is a chiropractor in San Francisco who specializes in
sports-related issues. He agrees with Donley and adds that some people have
curved and some have straight feet. Similarly, some running shoes are made on
curved template and others on a straight one.

To ensure the best fit for your money, have a foot expert, such as a
podiatrist, tell you whether your foot is curved or straight. Then turn over
the pair of running shoes you want to buy to see if the sole is curved or
straight. Match your foot shape to the shape of the running shoe. Women,
whose feet tend to be narrower at the heel and wider at the front, often fare
better with curved running shoes as well.


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