Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Volunteer for Running Shoe Development

I received an email from Pedro Rodrigues, a Sports Research Engineer in the New Balance Sports Research Laboratory.  New Balance was launching a new research study looking at the effects of running shoes on lower extremity mechanics.  Pedro asked if I would be interested in serving as a tester.

Absolutely! I have been a committed runner for 25 plus years, have experienced a variety of leg and foot injuries, and have run in numerous brands of running shoes to “improve my speed” and avoid injury.  In fact, I was currently running in New Balance shoes, and my contribution to this study might provide valuable data and help develop new running shoes and technologies. Besides, I could not pass up a chance to take part in a running shoe study by an athletic shoe manufacturer making their shoes in the USA.

I drove to the research lab in Lawrence, MA, and signed confidentiality and injury release forms. Pedro explained the goal of the study was to evaluate how a single component of the running shoe affected the mechanics of my leg.  Therefore, each shoe was essentially identical other than that single factor, allowing the researchers to understand the specific effects of that one factor.  I then ran on a treadmill in ten different pairs of shoes.

Pedro measured my leg and ankle and then place reflective markers in specific anatomic locations.  These reflective markers were then tracked using a motion capture system (Qualisys, Gothenburg, Sweden) as I ran on the treadmill at a constant speed.  This system consisted of 8 cameras, which sent out infrared light that reflected off these markers.  Next, by combining the view of each camera, the motion of my leg could be reconstructed in 3-D (see video), allowing the engineers to calculate joint angles, velocities, etc.  In this particular case they were interested in the position of my ankle when I first struck the ground, the amount I pronated (foot rolling to the inside), the speed I pronate, etc.  They will collect this information on a number of runners and will run statistical analyses to see if the controlled factor had any effect on a runner’s lower body mechanics.

Share with me the excitement of running research. New Balance offered me an opportunity related to my dedication to running. Running is a major part of my lifestyle and I firmly believe running allows me the cardiac endurance and fitness to maintain my outdoor pursuits. Click on the video showing the body marking and reflectors, running on the treadmill, and the 3-D results.

Now, I never have to say, "I wish I had contributed to a New Balance running shoe study. "

Steve’s latest book, Outdoor Enthusiast: Never say, “I wish I had…” is now available both in hard copy (www.outdoorsteve.com/) and in e-Book (Kindle and Nook).

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