Link Between Arthritis And Your Running Shoes

Posted Wed, 01/13/2010 - 12:42pm by Fred Lee

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If you are a runner, you might be interested to know that the shoes you wear while you exercise might actually be a source for injuries later in life. Though exercise has, without question, numerous health benefits, especially regarding cardiovascular health, it has long been acknowledged that running puts an inordinate amount of strain on your joints, particularly in the knees.

Researchers have now concluded that in certain instances, wearing running shoes while exercising exerted more stress on joints of the knees, hips, and ankles than running in bare feet, or for that matter, walking in high heeled shoes. As people get older, this could predispose them to developing arthritis in the lower extremities.

The study, published in the journal “PM&R: The journal of injury, function and rehabilitation,” examined nearly 70 healthy adults (37 women and 31 men) who wore standard running shoes while running at least 15 miles per week. None of the subjects reported any history of joint injuries.

Each participant was issued a shoe that was representative of most standard, commercially available running shoes. They were then asked to run on a treadmill, with the shoes on and in bare feet, whereby their bodily motion was analyzed. What they found was that while wearing the shoes, subjects experienced an increased amount of torque at the hip (54%), knee (38%) and ankle (36%) joints, as compared to running in bare feet.

The findings highlight the fact that even though today’s modern running shoes go a long way to protect our feet, they might in fact increase the amount of stress on our lower joints, i.e., our hips, knees, and ankles. This is in a large part the result of the elevated heel and the increased medial arch, both hallmarks of modern running shoe design.

Surprisingly, the effect on the knees that running shoes had was even more pronounced than the previously observed effect of high heeled shoes when walking. This is largely due to the fact that running exerts a great deal more stress than walking. The authors hope that their findings will encourage shoe makers to begin focusing more attention on reducing joint torque and stress in addition to protecting feet.

Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis in this country, affecting nearly 27 million Americans and accounting for nearly 25% of all visits to primary care physicians. It occurs as a result of joint cartilage wearing down over time and can gradually worsen with age. Currently there is no cure.

If you are experiencing joint pain or suspect you may have OA, talk to your primary care doctor or visit the website of the National Institutes of Health. Before engaging in any strenuous aerobic exercise, consult a physician or a trainer to structure a workout that best suits your lifestyle.

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