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Yeah Right, Watch Your Step!

by Emily Gindle » on Oct 12, 2010 1

There’s a fascinating study that was done in 1997 by Robbins and Waked called “Hazard of deceptive advertising of athletic footwear.” The researchers took a force momentum platform and divided it into four sections: the first section they left bare, and the remaining three sections were covered with the same shoe sole material, but each section was made to look different. Then they brought in a group of 15 guys and gave them a different story about each section of shoe sole material, saying that one section gave “superior impact absorption and protection” another section had a “high injury risk”, and the last was neutral.

Can you guess where this is going? They had the guys run on each of the for sections–bare force plate, plus the other three that were the exact same material but advertised differently–and measured how hard each runner came down on the “different” surfaces. Impact was the same for the bare plate and the “hazardous” material, but it was higher for the “superior” and neutral materials.

We can run gently in bare feet or cushioned shoes, but if we believe in a shoe’s ability to protect us better, it looks like we hit the ground harder. I believe in personal awareness. It doesn’t really matter what kind of footwear you lace up or strap on; you’re still going to have to listen to your feet.

That said, I was happy to be breaking in my cushioned Treksports this week, and took them to a trail that normally tenderizes my soles: the Meadow Loop on the top of Mount Lemmon. Part of this trail is a poorly maintained service road that is extremely rocky, smallish rocks with sharp edges everywhere. I’ve walked this trail several times in my KSOs and I hate to say that every time it’s been somewhat unpleasant; I end up taking forever to pick my way down the road or I bushwack along the edge, which isn’t very consistent with my Leave No Trace rules.

My Treksports were perfect for this; I even jogged a few paces! They were also still flexible enough to play around balancing on the end of a tree that had fallen over. It was slimmer than my feet, but it’s easier to stay on with feet that can wrap around.

I still crave the closeness that I feel in my KSOs. As flexible as the Treksports are, they’re still an extra step away from the ground. I like getting more feedback, as I’ve mentioned many times before, and I’m convinced it’s made me a better runner. When I was on my way back down a canyon at the end of a trail run once, I came across a couple that was hiking up the canyon in their traditional thick boots. I smiled and said hi, and the older gentleman took a look at my feet and snarled, “yeah right, watch your step.”

Robbins and Waked might argue that he’s the one that should be watching his.

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