Runners’ feet have power of adaptation
Don't underestimate the intelligence of your foot.
A study led by Dr Luke
Kelly of The University of Queensland's School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences
has explored the intimate relationships between our feet and
"We really wanted to understand how feet move inside shoes and
the influence this has on how the brain and spinal cord control the
function of the foot," Dr Kelly said.
"The overarching question was: 'Do running shoes interfere with
your body's ability to control foot and leg muscle function?'.
"We found the arch of your foot collapses less when you run in
shoes, making your foot stiffer."
However, according to Dr Kelly, the most fascinating finding was
that the increase in stiffness was not due to the support features
of the shoe, but instead due to an increase in the activation of
the muscles supporting the arch.
"This is somewhat counter-intuitive and in contrast to
suggestions made by evolutionary biologists that running shoes
block sensory feedback from the feet and weaken foot muscles," he
"The findings further highlighted the highly adaptable nature of
the human foot and the many unseen things it does to get us from
point A to point B."
Dr Kelly said he believed the changes occurred due to the
softness of the shoes and the brain counter-acting by increasing
the force produced by the muscles of the arch.
"Similar mechanisms are known to occur at the knee and ankle,
but this is the first time we've observed it in the foot," he
Dr Kelly and collaborators Professor
Andrew Cresswell, Associate
Professor Glen Lichtwark and Dr Dominic
Farrisobserved 16 participants as they each took two turns
running on a treadmill.
One of their runs was performed wearing sneakers, while their
other run was completed barefoot.
Runners' longitudinal arches collapsed by around 25 per cent
less when shoes were worn.
"We confirm that running shoes do indeed influence the
mechanical function of the foot, however the underlying mechanism
may be quite different from that of common belief," Dr Kelly
"Our findings suggest the alterations in foot function that
occur when running in shoes are likely to have occurred as a result
of increased muscle activation, rather than by impairment."
The findings of the UQ research team, partially funded by Asics
Oceania Pty Ltd, have been published in the
Journal of the Royal Society.
Dr Kelly is an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow. He has been
the biomechanics consultant to Cricket Australia since 2013 and a
sports podiatrist since 2004.
Media: Dr Luke Kelly, email@example.com
, +67 3365 6240; Robert Burgin, UQ
, +61 7 3346 3035, +61 448 410