Background: Low drop cushioned running shoes have been popular over the past decade despite a lack of research on low drop shoes. There is some evidence that low drop cushioned shoes increase vertical ground reaction forces (VGRFs) and influence ankle kinematics but no study to date has focused on large heel drop cushioned shoes (>15mm). Therefore, it is unknown how a large drop cushioned shoe affects vertical ground reaction forces and ankle kinematics in female runners.
Purpose: To examine the effects of varying running shoe heel drop heights on running biomechanics in female runners.
Study Design: Cross-Sectional Study
Methods: 14 female participants ran in a low drop cushioned shoe, a traditional cushioned shoe, and a large drop cushioned shoe. Three-dimensional kinematics and vertical ground reaction forces were collected while participants ran over ground. Variables of interest included ankle frontal plane kinematics, ankle sagittal plane kinematics, VGRF active peak, VGRF impact peak, and VGRF loading rate. Results: VGRF impact peak and loading rate were higher in the low drop cushioned shoes and lower in the large drop cushioned shoes. Both inversion and dorsiflexion at initial contact were significantly lower in the low drop cushioned shoe.
Conclusions: Female runners who rearfoot strike displayed decreased VGRF loading when running in a large heel drop running shoe compared to a traditional running shoe. Additionally, female rearfoot strikers who ran in a low heel drop cushioned shoe exhibited increased VGRF loading rate and impact peak which suggests an increased risk of running related injuries. Even though large heel drop shoes may benefit runners, future research is needed to examine the influence of these shoes on running biomechanics after habitual wear.
Clinical Relevance: Low drop cushioned shoes are popular among runners but may increase the risk of injury in runners who rearfoot strike. Alternatively, a large drop cushioned shoe may benefit runners that are at risk of impact related injuries.
Key Terms: Cushioned Shoes, Running, Footwear