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Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 01 July 2013
Running shoes with in-built bedsprings in the soles may sound like something out of a children’s comic, but scientists have done created them in an attempt to reduce the injuries caused by pavement jogging.
The shoes have a series of miniature pocket springs based on mattress bedsprings that are designed to absorb some of the shock of repeatedly hitting hard ground, scientists said.
Conventional running shoes have layers of foam or gel to lessen the impact but this material does little or nothing in terms of adding springiness to the shoe’s sole, said its inventor Professor Jim Richards of the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.
“If you had a car suspension with just a damper and no spring in it then you’d have a very bumpy ride. Therefore having a shoe that incorporates both provides a much improved shock-absorbing system compared with existing technology,” Professor Richards said.
Most of the injuries caused by running are due to the impact of the foot hitting hard ground, which can cause knee pain, shin splints and small stress fractures. Tiny pocket springs, which operate individually, can lessen the impact rate that causes injury by 10 per cent, Professor Richards said.
“Over a given year, injury affects over 70 per cent of recreational runners. This is a huge problem. Even with all the latest advances of running shoes we are still getting a high injury rate,” he said. “What we wanted was pocket-spring mattresses. Most running shoes have a bit of foam or gel which means it’s all damper and no springs. We’ve added micro-springs because they significantly reduce loading rate, which causes injury,” he added.
The lightweight springs were made by Leeds mattress company Harrison Spinks, which Professor Richards said was one of the few companies in the world capable of making pocket springs small enough to fit inside a running shoe’s sole.
However, the shoe, which is one of the highlights of the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition this week, is not intended to improve a person’s running performance, which could cause problems in competitive events, Professor Richards said.
“We’re using this not to improve performance but to reduce the risk of injury by reducing the loading rate. Any performance enhancement will be minimal,” he said.
The running shoe, which is to be sold later this year under the brand name “the Preston”, will not cost significantly more than existing trainer.
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