First Things First: What is Plantar Pressure, loading and off loading?
During my research behind the science of designing and engineering running shoes I came across terms like “plantar” and loading many times. I wanted to clarify what those terms mean before getting into this discussion about everything that goes into creating really good running shoes these days. Robert van Deursen discusses what mechanical loading is in “Mechanical Loading and Off-Loading of the Plantar Surface of the Diabetic Foot” (2004) from the journal Clinical Infectious Disease.
Basically during weight baring activities, such as walking, our feet are exposed to ground reaction forces. These forces over time can lead to tissue deformation. This force (I guess you could call it gravity and the hard surfaces we walk on) is called the stress strain relation. When a person is walking or running that puts more pressure on each part of the foot than just standing normally because each foot has to bear all the weight in that instance. Different parts of the foot bear different degrees of pressure when we walk and run.
Foot Plantar Measurement
Foot plantar measurement is a part of this phenomenon and is discussed by Razak, Hadi, Zayegh, Begg & Wahab (2012) in “Foot Plantar Pressure Measurement System: A Review”. The foot plantar pressue is the pressure field between the foot and the support surface during our everyday activities. Part of the reason there is so much science and studying behind all of this is because the information that comes from this is important in these aspects (in addition to creating the world’s best running shoes):
- Gait and posture research
- Diagnosing lower limb problems
- Footwear design
- Sport bio mechanics
- Injury prevention
- And more!
So, basically loading and plantar pressure is the process our feet go through to support us and our body weight. It is important for researches to do research on these subjects in order to help athletes, everyday runners and even those in the health care field (those with diabetes and the elderly). Doing research on these different factors helps us understand our bodies better and how to become better runners.
What is the difference between men’s running shoes and women’s running shoes?
I was also wondering through all this research I did how a woman’s running shoes is different from a man’s and why. I came across an article called “Changes in Plantar Loading Based on Shoe Type and Sex During a Jump-Landing Task” (2013) by Debiasio, Russell, Butler, Nunley, & Queen. Here is where those terms mechanical loading and plantar pressure come in. It turns out that women and men distribute their weight differently. Even when it comes to the way that we run and walk our feet are affected differently and this affects our gait and much more.
Differences Between Men and Women’s Step
So when researchers are studying the best shoe to make for an athlete or an elderly person they have to take into consideration the sex of that person for these reasons. During this research they have observed that women have greater hip flexion and less knee flexion than men. On the contrary men demonstrated greater foot loading than women during these tests, which means that men distribute their weight more during jumping and landing. So taking this into consideration, those companies that are investing all of this time and money into the best footwear are figuring out how to reduce stress on the foot during plantar pressure and mechanical loading and unloading specifically for men and women.
Why is it so Important to do all this research ?
Researchers are not only targeting the mass market when it comes to running shoes but also for biomedical and sport related applications. These researchers and companies that are spending billions doing research are interested in these applications for footwear design and engineering, according to Hadi, et al. (2012):
- Sport performance analysis
- Injury prevention
- Improvement in balance control
- Diagnosing disease
- Human Identification
- Monitoring posture allocation
- Rehabilitation support systems
So, when it comes to measuring our support system, our feet, researchers take this very seriously. Not only is it important for the every day runner but for everyone. The research and engineering that has gone into modern day shoes has created better shoes in the way of efficiency, flexibility and mobility.
So, next time you go shopping for running shoes, whether it be in a store or online, keep all of these things in mind. It doesn’t pay to buy the cheapest pair of running shoes you can get your hands on, I know because I have done that before!
What are your experiences with running shoes ?
-Debiasio, J. C., Russell, M. E., Butler, R. J., Nunley, J. A., & Queen, R. M. (2013). Changes in Plantar Loading Based on Shoe Type and Sex During a Jump-Landing Task. Journal of Athletic Training, 48(5), 601-609. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-48.3.08
-Foot Plantar Pressure Measurement System: A Review
Abdul Hadi Abdul Razak, Aladin Zayegh, Rezaul K. Begg, Yufridin Wahab
Sensors (Basel) 2012; 12(7): 9884–9912. Published online 2012 Jul 23. doi: 10.3390/s120709884
-Robert van Deursen; Mechanical Loading and Off-Loading of the Plantar Surface of the Diabetic Foot, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 39, Issue Supplement_2, 1 August 2004, Pages S87–S91, https://doi.org/10.1086/383268