Gait Biomechanics of a Second Generation Unstable Shoe

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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  • 1 Biola University
  • | 2 University of Tennessee
  • | 3 University of Memphis
  • | 4 Drexel University
  • | 5 University of Oregon
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The recent popularity of unstable shoes has sparked much interest in the efficacy of the shoe design. Anecdotal evidence suggests that earlier designs appear bulky and less aesthetically appealing for everyday use. The purpose of this study was to examine effects of a second generation unstable shoe on center of pressure (COP), ground reaction force (GRF), kinematics, and kinetics of the ankle joint during level walking at normal and fast speeds. In addition, findings were compared with results from the first generation shoe. Fourteen healthy males performed five successful level walking trials in four testing conditions: walking in unstable and control shoes at normal (1.3 m/s) and fast (1.8 m/s) speeds. The unstable shoe resulted in an increase in mediolateral COP displacement, first peak vertical GRF loading rate, braking GRF, ankle eversion range of motion (ROM), and inversion moment; as well as a decrease in anteroposterior COP displacement, second peak vertical GRF, ankle plantarflexion ROM, and dorsiflexion moment. Only minor differences were found between the shoe generations. Results of the generational comparisons suggest that the lower-profile second generation shoe may be as effective at achieving the desired unstable effects while promoting a smoother transition from heel contact through toe off compared with the first generation shoe.

Jacob K. Gardner is with the Department of Kinesiology, Health, and Physical Education at Biola University, La Mirada, CA. Songning Zhang is with the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. Max R. Paquette is with the Department of Health and Sport Sciences at the University of Memphis, Memphis, TN. Clare E. Milner is with the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA. Elizabeth Brock is with the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon, Eugene, OR.

Address author correspondence to Jacob K. Gardner at