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You Can't Judge a Running Shoe by Its Price Tag


DUNDEE, Scotland -- Lower-cost running shoes provide as good or better protection for the foot as high-priced shoes, according to investigators here.

DUNDEE, Scotland, Oct. 10 -- Lower-cost running shoes provide as good or better protection for the foot as high-priced shoes, according to investigators here.

Plantar pressure measured using a specially designed insole was not significantly different when wearing shoes that cost less than than it was with shoes that cost more than , said Rami J. Abboud, M.D., of the Institute of Motion Analysis and Research at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School here, and colleagues.

The results, based on a study of 52 healthy male volunteers who tested low-, medium-, and high-cost running shoes, were published online today by the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Although the shoes varied in terms of the amount of cushioning provided to different parts of the foot, the authors concluded that "performance, in terms of cushioning, is not related to cost. In fact, plantar pressure was lower overall in low- and medium-cost shoes than in high-cost shoes."

Moreover, although those differences in plantar pressure were small, the investigators speculated that the difference could become important over time with repetitive impact loading. "This may suggest that less expensive running shoes not only provide as much protection from impact force as expensive running shoes, but that in actual fact they may provide more," they wrote.

The authors measured plantar pressure in three pairs of running shoes tested by each the volunteers. Tested shoes represented low-cost (-), medium-cost (-), and high-cost (-) models from three different manufacturers.

Pressure was measured using Pedar, a plantar pressure measuring system made by Novel of Munich, Germany while volunteers ran on a treadmill. The specially designed insoles were composed of a matrix of 99 capacitive sensors that sent signals to a synchronization box that relayed the signals via a wireless Bluetooth radio link to an electronic database.

Comfort was assessed using a visual analog scale ranging from "least comfortable imaginable" to "most comfortable imaginable".

Nine of the men also participated in a follow-up walking study.

Dr. Abboud said that although only nine men participated in the follow-up study, the patterns in plantar pressure were consistent with those recorded during the running study.

Comfort ratings were highly variable across all shoes, and there was "negligible agreement between perceived comfort and predicted cost (P=0.081)." There was no relationship between comfort and overall plantar pressure.

It had been suggested that shoes may feel more comfortable when there is "lower plantar pressure distribution under the medial forefoot and the great toe," but Dr. Abboud said there was no evidence in their study to support that belief.

The investigators said it was possible, but unlikely, that running surface-treadmill versus hard surface-could have an impact on plantar pressure. They said they are conducting additional research to address that issue.

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