Sept. 1, 2017

Footwear, stride length and surface: Reducing injury risk in sports

A few years back, when minimalist running shoes were all the rage, Colin Firminger and his PhD supervisor, Brent Edwards wondered how these shoes, which have very little arch support and mimic barefoot running, might impact foot injuries.
Colin Firminger
Graduate student Colin Firminger Don Molyneaux

Firminger, an engineer, and Edwards, an expert in the biomechanics of musculoskeletal injuries, devised a study looking at the effect minimalist shoes and stride length had on metatarsal (foot bone) stress fractures in runners. Firminger enrolled 14 male recreational runners between the ages of 18-35 into the study and measured load and force data captured from the insoles of various shoes. His results showed an increased risk of metatarsal fractures in runners wearing minimalist shoes.

Now working on his doctoral degree, Firminger has started a new project looking at the roles of footwear and playing surface stiffness in patellar tendonitis, or “jumper’s knee,” in basketball players. “We have both high school and collegiate basketball players enrolled in the study,” he says. “They jump in three different shoes on three different playing surfaces, and then we measure everything using motion capture cameras and force plates.” The players also get an MRI in the McCaig Institute’s new Centre for Mobility and Joint Health to look at tendon cross-sectional area and length.

In the future, Firminger is considering a career in the footwear industry. “It would be cool to apply the principles that we’re using in our research to injury protection rather than just comfort,” he says.