Biomechanical aspects of footwear

Authored by: Ewald M. Hennig

Routledge Handbook of Biomechanics and Human Movement Science

Print publication date:  May  2008
Online publication date:  June  2008

Print ISBN: 9780415408813
eBook ISBN: 9780203889688
Adobe ISBN: 9781134132348


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With the onset of the running boom in the USA in the 1970s many runners experienced overuse injuries and became more and more interested in the quality of their shoes. The magazine Runners World started the first surveys of running shoes and soon realized that biomechanical methods are available to quantify the properties of running shoes. Running shoes are without a question the footwear that has been explored the most by scientists in the field of biomechanics. Following the running shoe research peak other products became the focus of interest. In particular, many shoe studies were performed in the field of basketball and other indoor sports. Nowadays, the research extends to all kinds of athletic footwear, ranging from track and field disciplines to tennis, inline skating and footwear for winter sports. Due to differences in foot anatomy (Krauss, 2006) and specific injury patterns for women, gender specific footwear has become an important topic in athletic shoe research. Especially, the much higher incidence of knee injuries in certain sport disciplines requires additional research and efforts by the shoe industry. For example, women have a higher degree of rearfoot motion in running and need more stable shoes that provide an adequate pronation control (Hennig, 2001). Only recently, soccer boots have received a lot of attention and were explored by various research groups. Other than in running shoes, soccer boots have additional tasks to perform. These shoes are used for kicking, they should provide sufficient traction for rapid cutting manoeuvres and assist the players in rapid acceleration and stopping movements. Football shoe design, for example, can influence maximum kicking speed (Hennig and Zulbeck, 1999). Biomechanical soccer shoe research is still in its infancy and many different aspects will have to be considered. Especially, the often conflicting demands of injury prevention and high performance properties remain to be solved. On the following pages measuring and test methods for athletic footwear as well as research results will be presented. This will demonstrate how important biomechanics has become in providing the necessary knowledge for the design of functional footwear. The discussion will be limited to various aspects of running shoe research. This field has received the most attention in the literature and many of the concepts and measuring principles can be transferred to other areas of athletic footwear research.

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