Running Blind

Have you heard the one about the runner who suffers an injury and goes to a physiotherapist?

Some runners take their shoes with them when they see a physiotherapist, and often they receive the simple advice to buy new shoes. But are the shoes really to blame? How can the physiotherapist know? And will new shoes necessarily be any better? Could changes in the design or materials of shoes help prevent injuries?

A runner herself, Sport lecturer Codi Ramsey explored the relationship between footwear and running-related injuries in her PhD.  Part of her research involved validating a tool for objectively measuring worn and new running shoes. Her review of 25 articles that considered footwear and running injuries, revealed that the methodologies varied widely and there is no consistency in the characterisation of footwear internationally. And a pilot study of adult female runners also demonstrated the feasibility of an approach that could be used in further research to investigate the relationship between footwear and injury.

Codi is using systems-based thinking to approach the issue, to recognise that there are multiple factors influencing runners' footwear, including regulation, manufacture, and supply chains as well of course as each runner's own foot, technique and the environments in which they are running. She aims to build a data-driven model that can collate data from injured runners and identify issues to inform the system, including for example shoe design and manufacture and physiotherapists' advice. She is also part of an international collaborative research project that will seek to establish a footwear taxonomy to standardise the characterisation of different types of footwear, to help runners buy what they need.

April 2019