Watching Your Steps; Building the Elite Athlete; Scientific American Presents; by Karen Wright; 6 Page(s)
Running is often called a "pure" or "simple" sport. It doesn't have many rules, it doesn't take much teamwork, and it requires little in the way of equipment, training and talent. Almost anybody with two legs and a healthy heart can run, almost anytime and almost anywhere. There is, of course, a yawning chasm between recreational joggers who log a few miles after work and the cabal of athletes who win marathons and Olympic medals. But just about everybody who runs farther than to the bus stop uses the one and only piece of specialty gear the sport demands: running shoes.
Most people can't imagine running without them. Casual athletes wear running shoes to protect against injury by cushioning impact and aiding joint alignment. Serious runners count on their shoes to improve their performance as well. How and whether running shoes deliver on these expectations are questions science has been trying to answer since the word "sneaker" went the way of the hula hoop sometime in the 1970s. After decades of investigation and millions of dollars of investment, the running shoe is still very much a work in progress. In fact, its brief history can be seen as an ongoing experiment in biomechanics, materials and design.