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Optimise the Shock Absorption on your feet!

Physio&SoleClinic Sports Injury November 30 2017

This article is adapted from our presentation to Standard Chartered Marathon participants in 2017.  

During running and walking, our feet act as a shock absorber, a mobile adaptor to uneven ground, as well as a rigid lever to propel the body forward. Shock absorption is especially important during running because our feet experiences 3-4 times the normal peak pressures as compared to walking.  The impact is mainly on the heels, forefoot and big toes.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance to wear supportive and comfortable shoes to protect the feet as wearing inappropriate footwear not only hinders our daily activities, it could also cause injuries. Ill-fitting or inappropriate footwear can cause a whole host of issues, with blisters, corns and calluses, heel pain and forefoot pain the most common foot conditions we see in Physio and Sole Clinic.

What is the optimal shock absorption or cushioning in shoes?

Given the amount of pressure the feet absorbs daily, you may think that more cushioning may be better for our feet, but think again.

  • Insufficient cushioning can lead to increased peak pressures and uneven distribution of body weight. This may cause stress or overuse injuries.
  • However, excessive cushioning reduces foot and ankle stability during loading and propulsion. Extra energy is required to achieve stability and that may cause muscle fatigue, ankle sprains or fractures.

What to look out for when choosing shoes?

We should aim for a balance between comfort, stability, cushioning and durability when deciding on a pair of shoes. Choose shoes that offer optimised shock absorption, which means they provide cushioning in peak pressure areas, and stability in other areas.

Here are some general tips in choosing appropriate footwear.

Other factors to consider when choosing shoes:

  • Body weight: As your weight is distributed on the soles of your feet, the body weight will have a direct bearing on the support your feet needs. If you notice your shoes wearing out quickly (within 6 months), you may want to consider looking for shoes with thicker or firmer outsoles.
  • Terrain: Are you running on the road, track or trail? Are your activities conducted on a turf or court? Choosing the right shoes with appropriate outsoles for the required terrain will make a huge difference in the amount of grip your feet has, and this ultimately prevents injuries.
  • Sports specific: Different sports require varying movement patterns.  It is important to choose the right footwear that complement your sport. For example, there are specific footwear that you should use when playing soccer or basketball. Choosing the appropriate sports specific shoes will not only make a difference between winning or losing, it reduces the risks of injuries too!

Next time you shop for new shoes, do spare a thought for your feet!

If you…

  • have persistent symptoms in your feet,
  • have blisters, corns or callus developing on your feet,
  • need a lower limb biomechanical assessment,
  • are considering getting custom insoles,

do consider seeing a podiatrist!

Photo by Jordan Andrews on Unsplash

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