Maximal shoes may increase injury risk, recent research suggests

Recent trend in shoes under the microscope

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Wearing "maximal" shoes with high levels of cushioning could increase the chance of injury, a recent scientific study has found.

Maximal running shoes, which have been gaining in popularity in recent years, typically have two or three times the amount of cushioning than conventional shoes, the idea being that having more material between the foot and the ground will increase shock absorption.

However, although it's early days, researchers have found they may not have the desired effect.

A study at Oregon State University-Cascades took 15 female runners and had them run 5km on a treadmill in both maximal and neutral shoes. Scientists at the Functional Orthopedic Research Center of Excellence (FORCE) Lab measured 3D movements and forces in each case and were surprised by the results.

Christine Pollard, director of the FORCE Lab and an associate professor of kinesiology, said: "We thought we would see the opposite. Typically, increased cushioning results in a reduction in the impact peak and loading rate of the vertical ground reaction force. We suspect that the large amount of cushioning across the entire midsole caused the runners to rely more on the shoe than on their own internal structures to attenuate these forces."

No difference was found in "peak eversion", the outward turning of the foot associated with injury risk. 

Pollard admitted more research needed to be done, particularly with regard to male runners, who have different biomechanics to female runners.