Effects of Foot Orthotics on Running Economy

Methodological Considerations

Jeanmarie R. Burke, PhD,a and M. Owen Papuga, PhDb



Objective: The purpose of the study was to collect preliminary data to address methodological considerations that may impact subject-specific reactions to foot orthotics during running.

Methods: Six endurance-trained recreational runners recruited from a chiropractic college campus wore their preferred running shoes and then inserted either their custom-made orthotics during 1 testing session or their shoe-fitted insoles during the other testing session. Comfort perception was measured for each footwear condition. Measurements of oxygen consumption (VO2) at several moderate exercise intensities, to mimic recreational running, generated an individual's economy-of-running line. Predicted running velocity at VO2max (vVO2max) was calculated as an index of endurance performance. Lower extremity muscle activity was recorded. Descriptive statistics, a repeated-measures analysis of variance model, and a paired t test were used to document any systematic changes in running economy, lower extremity muscle activities, and vVO2max within and across subjects as a function of footwear conditions.

Results: Decreases in VO2 at several moderate exercise intensities (F(1,5)footwear = 10.37, P = .023) and increases in vVO2max (t5 = 4.20, P = .008) occurred in all 6 subjects while wearing their orthotic intervention vs their shoe-fitted insoles. There were no consistent changes in lower extremity muscle activity.

Conclusions: Methodological decisions to use a sustained incremental exercise protocol at several moderate exercise intensities and to measure comfort perception of a custom-molded foot orthosis were effective at documenting systematic improvements in running economy among the 6 recreational runners tested. The development of a less physically demanding sustained exercise protocol is necessary to determine underlying neuromuscular mechanisms and/or clinical effectiveness of orthotic interventions. (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2012;35:327-336)



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