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When the Lunatics Take Over the Asylum

03 November 2017 - Dr Genevieve Yates

Sometimes, just occasionally, I am still shocked by elements of the running community and how they absolutely will NOT accept science over their own opinion.

I suppose I should not be surprised, having survived (just) the vitriol and gross misinformation spreading of the minimalist movement, I should be up for anything. Craig Payne at Running Research Junkie frequently posts about the loony element of the run community who cherry-pick and use confirmation bias to stoke their own infallible views based on their own infallible opinion. 

As he puts it nicely:  "Anecdotes are not evidence" 

So, I was somewhat taken aback by the response to a recent Facebook post I put up in relation to the abstract presented recently at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference.

The Article

Maximalist Shoes Do Not Reduce Impact Loading During Level and Downhill Running.  Cheung et al.

Abstract

A new running shoe design called ‘maximalists’, which claims to provide maximal cushioning with its oversized midsole and thus lower the impact loading, becomes more popular among trail runners. Downhill running is an essential component of trail races but it may lead to a greater loading than level running. However, the effects of maximalists on the running biomechanics, especially during downhill running, remain unexamined.

Purpose

To compare vertical loading rates, stride length and footstrike angle in runners with traditional running shoes (TRS) and maximalists (MAX) during level and downhill running. Methods: Twelve regular shod runners (9 males, 32.5±8.9 years) were asked to run on a self-paced instrumented treadmill at 0% and 10%-declination with TRS (Adizero boost, Adidas) and MAX (Clifton 3, Hoka) in a randomized sequence for 5 minutes. Kinematics and force data were sampled at 200 and 1,000 Hz respectively. The average (AVILR) and instantaneous vertical loading rates (VILR), along with the stride length and footstrike angle, were extracted and averaged over the last minute in each condition.

Results

VALR, VILR, stride length, and footstrike angle were similar between TRS and MAX during both level and downhill running (ps>0.372, Table 1). Conclusion: These findings suggest that additional cushioning of maximalist running shoes do not lower impact loading. In addition, maximalists do not change the stride length and footstrike pattern in shod runners.

And I made the comment:

"Maximalist footwear does NOT reduce impact load during downhill or level running... I have said it before and say it again... impact is NOT the main problem with running."

Well... did that stir up a hornet's nest!  There must be a LOT of Hoka fans out there, I am certainly one of them, because it caused howls of objection from all sides!  Comments like:

  • "It's almost as this ‘biomechanics’ company sells "barefoot running" consulting. And want to show you "science" on it."
  • "To say impact is not the problem with running is in my humble opinion, false. I have run many miles over the course of many many years and can tell you impact is a problem while running.”

I had an immediate flashback to all the anecdote and yarn spinning that went on with minimalism, but this time, it is all about maximalism!  Boy these shoe guys jump on a trend and hang onto it ferociously!!

OK... so what this is telling me is that sectors of the running community have NO idea about science and no idea how to correctly read a published scientific paper.

The paper in question made two, and only two conclusions:

  1. additional cushioning of maximalist running shoes does not lower impact loading.
  2. maximalists do not change the stride length and foot strike pattern in shod runners.

The authors confirm what has been published in the literature for years!

This article was originally published on the Bartold Biomechanics website.

But wait there's more

To hear more from Simon about Sports Shoes - watch a webinar recording on this topic as part of the Podiatry CPD Made Easy course.

Dr Genevieve Yates
Dr Genevieve Yates

Genevieve is an educator, a GP and a writer in regional Victoria.

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