Old-fashioned plimsolls with flat soles are better for kids' feet

Modern trainers with thick heels makes it more difficult for young people to learn to run using the front foot

Science Editor

Old-fashioned plimsoll shoes with flat soles are better for children’s feet than modern cushioned trainers because they teach them to run in a more natural manner on the front part of the foot, scientists have said.

The trend towards highly-cushioned trainers with thick heels makes it more difficult for young people to learn to run using the front foot, which causes less impact than striking the ground with the heel.

Once children become accustomed to running in trainers using their cushioned heels they find it difficult to learn to run more naturally, said Mick Wilkinson, a sport and exercise scientist at Northumbria University in Newcastle.

“If I was to advise someone on what to give their child I would say don’t go and buy them expensive Adidas or Nike big-cushioned jobs, just get them a pair of flexible, flat shoes,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“Give them basic foot-ware, nothing fancy, nothing structured, nothing particularly cushioned. There is a lot of evidence that the human foot is structured to cope with the forces of running by landing on the mid-foot,” he said.

“If someone is going to learn to run from first principles let them learn using their natural equipment as much as possible,” Dr Wilkinson told the British Science Festival in Newcastle.

Cushioned trainers have become a universal fashion item for young people but they are not necessarily the best kind of footwear for children who want to take up sports and running, he said.

Studies have shown that the human foot is designed for long-distance running, but only if the runner lands on the front part of the foot rather than the heel, which causes repeated impact shocks.

This is the main reason why bare-foot running is becoming more popular among some long-distance runners. “Lots of people are trying barefoot running. It is massive in America and it’s starting to come over here now,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“The body has in-built, impact-avoidance reflexes that are triggered by sensations through the sole of the feet. That leads you to cushion the landing naturally,” he explained.

Up to 20 per cent of runners using modern running shoes will develop injuries associated with the repetitive impact of striking the heel on the ground, such as stress fractures in the bones of the foot and leg, Dr Wilkinson said.

“Injury rates in running have not changed since the 1970s, despite claims of improvements in running shoes. That has led some to conclude that barefoot running is better,” he told the festival.

“There been a suggestion that barefoot running, or the technique of running that they adopt, could alter some of the impact forces such that injury risk might be reduced,” he said.

Bare-foot running requires people to carefully train themselves over a long period of time to run differently so that they do not damage themselves, but if children can be encouraged to wear simple, flat shoes this would at least help to avoid much of the damage caused by cushioned trainers, Dr Wilkinson said.

“If you are wearing the elevated-heel kind of running shoe it is actually quite difficult to land on the mid-foot. The elevated-heel running shoe encourages heel strike,” he said.

“I would say anything that encourages the transition to a mid-foot strike is beneficial so the more minimal show - moving away from the more cushioned ones - is the take-home message,” Dr Wilkinson told the meeting.

“If you want to start running and you’ve never run before, [plimsoll-like shoes] would be great. If kids learn PE in those type of shoes that would be great because it’s more difficult to go to them if you are already used to cushioned shoes,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions