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.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little