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Studying foot movement in shoes aids runners

06 October 2015

Runners could benefit from technology developed in Australia that monitors how feet move inside shoes, enabling manufactures to develop better products.

The high-tech collaboration between the University of South Australia (UniSA) and footwear manufacturer, ASICS to develop a new, ultra-light ‘super sneaker’ involves 3D motion analysis, laboratory testing and state of the art treadmill technology with in-built force measurement capabilities.

Biomechanical testing of existing ASICS shoes will focus on the effect of dual density in soles and the relationship between speed and footwear requirements in running. The goal of the new technology is to improve performance, reduce injury and increase comfort for both recreational and elite runners.

The ARENA Gait and Performance (GAP) laboratory at UniSA already has partnerships with leading AFL, basketball and soccer clubs in South Australia. Research fellow, Chris Bishop believes the research collaboration will to improve shoe comfort and performance for all runners.

“The overall aim of this is to develop and translate the results we gain in the laboratory into a product design," he says. “The movement of the foot inside the shoe has eluded footwear researchers for some time. From my podiatrist background we use orthotics, tape, in-shoe wedging, but once we put the foot inside the shoe, it’s a bit of a black box.

“We have been able to develop capabilities to describe in-shoe foot motion through state of the art computational modelling. This provides insights into foot function during walking and running while wearing shoes, the effect of technical footwear design as well as the mechanisms of action of in-shoe foot orthotics."

Dual density mid-soles are thought to improve comfort and reduce injury for people with flatter feet, but they also add weight to the shoe.

“We want to identify what these features do in an effort to reduce shoe mass," says Bishop.

The laboratory will also offer private analyses of running mechanics for individuals groups and sports teams in partnership with the privately operated Biomechanics Lab.

“What really sets our lab apart is that we’ve got the type of information to be able to analyse how the body moves and the effect the footwear is having,’’ he adds. “Also, how different shoes, techniques and interventions alter the forces applied to the body when people run."

The research team is also looking to recruit a large range of volunteers for the study over the coming months.

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