ZERO DROP "All the Shoes That Fit"

4Jun/11Off

The Other Shoe Has Dropped: Dr. Craig Richards Challenges ASICS and Other Footwear Companies

At the ASICS running lab; so let's make footwear data really public and transparent to all runners.

Dr. Craig Richards posted the following comment in Zero Drop's forum-- see below-- regarding ASICS' head researcher Simon Bartold's contention that minimalism might be a passing fad; but Richards' "let's-scientifically-test-your-running shoes" challenge not just with ASICS but with all footwear companies is a much-needed wake-up call to the running shoe industry. Nor is Richards reacting out of some impulsive desire. He's been after the shoe companies for several years to back up their footwear claims with real evidence.

An Australian medical doctor and international expert in the relationship between running injuries, running technique and shoe design, Dr. Richards runs the Hunter Gait Rehabilitation Clinic for chronically injured runners and a footwear design consultancy as well as being an active researcher at the University of Newcastle. He is co-author of "The Complete Idiots Guide to Barefoot Running." In the 1990s Dr. Richards was himself a chronically injured runner despite moderate mileage, “good shoes” and normal biomechanics. "I was faced with two choices- either accept that his body was not designed for running, or lay the blame on his shoes for disrupting his natural running mechanics." Dr. Richards tested his hypothesis by learning to run without shoes and his injuries resolved. He then asked the obvious question: “Is it just me that is adversely affected by these shoes?”

This led him to examine the evidence for the use of standard running shoes with their heel elevation, thick cushioned soles and pronation control systems tailored to foot type. He reported the findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in a paper entitled, "Is  Your Prescription of Distance Running Shoes Evidence based? As he later wrote, "The results were astounding: there was not a single study reported in the scientific literature which had attempted to measure the effects of this shoe type on either injury rates or running performance."

That BJSM article came out in 2008. Three years have passed, and he's still waiting for that definitive footwear study to surface. Now the other shoe has dropped. The clock has appeared to expire. Here's his open letter to Barthold, ASICS, and the entire running shoe industry:

If Simon and ASICS are up for the challenge, I am prepared to run the studies required at the University of Newcastle. Collaborators of all shapes and sizes welcome.Shoe companies provide the shoes to be tested. I will fund the running of the study out of my existing research funding.Due to the number of structural differences between shoe models/brands, we cannot isolate a single variable such as heel elevation, therefore we must necessarily compare products.

I propose the following study population:
-age 18+
-run for at least 30 minutes three times per week
-wear the same pair of shoes when training and racing
-do not wear orthotics
-do not intend to make any significant changes to coaching, training, equipment use, diet, medical or physical therapy, medication or supplement use in next 12 months
-do not expect any significant change in their health or injury status in the next 12 months
-have been competing in distance running events (5km or greater) for at least 2 years
-season best time over their preferred distance has not varied by more than 5% over the past two years
- are prepared to be randomly allocated between groups
-do not have a commercial relationship with a shoe brand or manufacturer
-do not derive either status or income from recommending running shoes to runners (eg shoe retailer, podiatrist)

Simon you nominate the best ASICS shoe for this runner. If more than one shoe is required to suit runners with different sub-characteristics within this group you define how these shoes should be prescribed.Other shoe companies similarly prepared to stand behind their product nominate their best shoe for this population of runners. If no other company is forthcoming I will provide Dunlop KT-26s, Dunlop Volleys and bare feet as measures of whether shoe technology has actually improved since 1980, 1960 and pre-shoes respectively.

We then run a series of head to head RCTs to identify the "Gold Standard" shoe. This shoe is then used as the testing reference against which all future studies are performed until a better design is identified.We will use a standardised testing protocol involving 6 monthly 5km time trials and 3 monthly injury surveillance questionnaires. We are already running a RCT using this protocol and preliminary results confirm our ability to detect a 2-3% difference in performance between the groups.

--Dr C Richards, Discipline of General Practice, Bowman Building, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan 2308, Australia;craig.richards@newcastle.edu.au

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  1. Since we coined the term ‘Zero Drop’ and believe in it 100% we might just take the challenge! Craig- I will contact you personally for details.

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