This study evaluated the effects of running shoes—with two types of cushioning column systems—on impact force patterns during running. Kinematic and ground reaction force data were collected from 10 normal participants wearing shoes with the following cushions: 4-column multicellular urethane elastomer (Shoe 1), 4-column thermoplastic polyester elastomer (Shoe 2), and 1-unit EVA foam (Shoe 3). Participants exhibited significantly lower impact force (p = .02) and loading rate (p = .005) with Shoe 2 (1.84 ± 0.24 BW; 45.6 ± 11.6 BW/s) compared to Shoe 1 (1.94 ± 0.18 BW; 57.9 ± 12.1 BW/s). Both cushioning column shoes showed impact force characteristics similar to those of a top-model running shoe (Shoe 3), and improved cushioning performance over shoes previously tested in similar conditions. Alterations in impact force patterns induced by lower limb alignment and running speed were negligible since participants did not differ in ankle position, knee position, or speed during all shod running trials. Ankle plantarflexion, however, was higher for barefoot running, indicating an apparent midfoot strike. Mechanical testing of each shoe during physiologic, cyclic loading demonstrated that Shoe 3 had the greatest stiffness, followed by Shoe 2 and Shoe 1. Shoe 1 was the least stiff of the two shoes with cushioning column systems, yet it displayed a significantly higher impact loading rate during running, possibly due to rearfoot motion alterations induced by the stiffer shoe. This study showed that even in similar shoe types, impact force and loading rate values could vary significantly with midsole cushion constructions. The findings of this study suggest that using these newer running shoes may be effective for runners who want optimal cushioning during running.
The authors are with the Center for Human Performance, and Mahar is also with the Orthopedic Biomechanics Research Center, Children's Hospital San Diego, 3020 Children's Way, San Diego, CA 92123.