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Running shoes no better than heels?

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Some high-tech running shoes, decked out with arch-support technology and cushioning may put more strain on your joints than running barefoot or walking in high heels, US researchers have found.

The University of Virginia study found that running in some types of high-tech trainers currently on the market cause stress on the knee, hip and ankle joints.

According to Dr D Casey Kerrigan, who led the research, increased pressure in these areas may eventually lead to osteoarthritis, LiveScience.com reported.

In earlier research, Dr Kerrigan discovered that walking in heels caused increased pressure in knee joints. As cushioning in running shoes can create a slightly elevated heel, Dr Kerrigan decided to examine whether running shoes had a similar impact.

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In the study, 37 women and 31 men who ran at least 24km a week were studied in a "gait laboratory", running on a treadmill either barefoot, or in a running shoe. The subjects had markers placed on their knee, hip and ankle joints to help monitor how they moved.

With each step on the treadmill's force plate, the force of the participant's bodyweight on their joints, particularly twisting force or "torque" was measured.

The researchers found an increase in this torque for the knees, hips and ankles when the participants were wearing running shoes compared to when they were running barefoot.

The researchers recorded a 38 percent increase in torque in areas of the knee where osteoarthritis develops, which was more than the knee torque Dr Kerrigan had previously observed in for women wearing high heels, at only 20 percent to 26 percent.

However, Dr Kerrigan said this study shouldn't promote barefoot running as we have not evolved to run on hard surfaces such as concrete.

"I think people should run in what they feel most comfortable running in ... and whether that's in a pair of running shoes or in a minimum kind of running shoe, that's just fine," Dr Kerrigan said.

"You run on something hard, your body has to work that much harder to help absorb those forces, and that can lead to stresses and strain, wear and tear, really throughout the whole body," she said.

The results were published in PM&R, the journal of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

When choosing a running shoe, experts recommend that you see a podiatrist or visit a specialist shoe store such as The Athlete's Foot who will determine your foot type and recommend a suitable shoe.

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