Lower extremity (LE) injuries are a common occurrence among recreational runners. Running footwear is continually evolving and recent running footwear trends include a minimal type and a maximal type running shoe. Maximal shoes structurally differ from other categories by providing the runner with a highly cushioned midsole. While numerous studies have investigated the influence of minimal shoes on LE running biomechanics, little is known how maximal shoes influence biomechanics. PURPOSE: To examine the influence of maximal running shoes on LE running biomechanics prior to and following a 5K run as compared to neutral running shoes. METHODS: Subjects consisted of 8 female recreational runners (ages 23-51, mean=38) who ran a minimum of 15 miles per week, and had not run in a minimal shoe for the 6 months prior to the study. Each subject participated in two data collection sessions with 7-10 days between sessions. They ran in a neutral shoe (NEU) for the first session and a maximal shoe (MAX) for the second session. 3-D kinematics (8-camera motion-capture system, 250 Hz) and ground reaction forces (force plate, 1000 Hz) were collected while subjects ran along a 10-meter runway. Four running trials were captured before a 5k run on a treadmill, and 4 trials were captured after the treadmill run was completed. Software was used to quantify lower extremity biomechanics. Variables of interest included the impact peak of the vertical ground reaction force (IVGRF), and loading rate (LR) normalized by body weight (BW). Differences were determined by using a series of two-way repeated measures ANOVA (shoe x time). RESULTS: While there were no significant shoe-time interactions, there was a significant main effect for shoe type for two variables. Comparing the NEU shoe to the MAX shoe prior to and following running a 5K run, subjects exhibited increased loading rate [(preNEU: 63.31 BWs/sec; preMAX: 63.58 BWs/sec) p=0.020, (postNEU: 63.58 BWs/sec; postMAX: 73.75 BWs/sec) p=0.026] and increased impact peak [(preNEU: 1.58 BWs; preMAX: 1.81 BWs) p=0.009, (postNEU: 1.60 BWs; postMAX: 1.82 BWs) p=0.019] in the MAX shoe. There was no main effect for time. CONCLUSION: Recreational runners exhibited different LE biomechanics when running in a maximal running shoe versus a traditional neutral shoe both prior to and following a 5K run. Our findings were not consistent with industry claims of a maximal shoe. In particular, we had hypothesized that the highly cushioned maximal shoe would result in a reduction in IVGRF and LR. Inversely, we observed an increase in these two variables. In order to better understand these differences between MAX and NEU shoes, a larger sample size will be necessary.

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