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Sneaker Price Not Correlated to Cushioning Impact (Interview with Dr. Rami Abboud, MSc, PhD)
Sneaker Price Not Correlated to Cushioning Impact (Interview with Dr. Rami Abboud, MSc, PhD)

(October 11, 2007 - Insidermedicine) Expensive running shoes are no better at cushioning impact than less expensive ones, say experts in a report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Due to the shock to the bones of the foot and other bones in the body, runners are prone to a variety of injuries.  These include knee pain, stress fractures, muscle tears, and potentially arthritis. While there may be many contributing factors, running shoes are often to blame.

Here are some important tips to recommend to our patients who are avid runners:
-Sixty percent of a shoe's shock absorption is lost after 250-500 miles of use. So those who run ten miles per week should consider replacing their shoes every nine to 12 months
-Runner's knee or patellofemoral pain is a common condition. It can be caused by misalignment, muscle weakness or overuse. Initial management should include "RICE" or rest, ice, compression and elevation.
- While there is some suggestion that running may raise the risk for osteoarthritis, a 9-year prospective study failed to link running to the development of radiographic hip arthritis

In the present study, Scottish researchers enrolled 43 people to test out nine different pairs of running shoes and rate them in terms of cushioning impact and overall comfort. The shoes were bought from three different manufacturers and were in three different price ranges. None of the participants were told how much any of the shoes cost.

The researchers tested the shoes for plantar pressure in eight different areas of the sole using a special device by asking the volunteers to walk along a 20 meter runway. Nine of the volunteers then wore the shoes as they ran on a treadmill to determine if the impact forces were different compared to walking.

Overall, plantar pressure was lower in the cheap to moderately priced shoes than in high-cost shoes. This may suggest that less expensive running shoes not only provide as much protection from impact as expensive shoes, but in fact may provide more. In terms of comfort, the ratings varied considerably, but there were no obvious differences between the shoes and price wasn’t a factor.

If you have a patient who experiences pain while running, ask about the type of footwear they’re using and whether it provides adequate cushioning and support. If the pain persists, despite RICE treatment,  further investigation may be warranted.

For Insidermedicine in Depth, I'm Dr. Susan Sharma.