Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of brjsmedBritish Journal of Sports MedicineVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Br J Sports Med. 1994 June; 28(2): 117–122.
PMCID: PMC1332044

Athletic footwear affects balance in men.


Stable equilibrium during locomotion is required for both superior performance of sports and prevention of injuries from falls. A recent report indicated that currently available athletic footwear impairs stability in older men. Since this discovery, if confirmed, seems important to both competitive athletes and the physically active general public, we performed an experiment using similar methods on a younger population. We tested the hypothesis that midsole thickness is negatively, and hardness positively related to dynamic equilibrium, in 17 healthy adult men (mean(s.d.) age 33(11.13) years) via a balance beam method. Subjects walked along a 9-m long beam at 0.5 m s-1 once barefoot and six times wearing identical pairs of experimental shoes which differed only in midsole hardness and thickness which spanned the respective ranges currently available in footwear. Falls from the beam (balance failures) were quantified. Balance failures varied significantly in relation to midsole hardness and thickness, and there was a strong trend toward interaction of these variables (P = 0.09). Midsole hardness was positively related to stability, and midsole thickness was negatively related, which confirms the previous report. Hence, shoes with thick-soft soles, similar to modern athletic footwear and 'walking shoes', destabilize men, and shoes with thin-hard soles provide superior stability. The pair with the poorest stability (A 15-thick; 12.34 balance failures per 100 m) produced 217% more balance failures than those associated with the best stability (A 50-thin; 3.89 balance failures per 100 m). Since most types of athletic footwear and many other shoes incorporate midsoles with hardness and thickness associated with poor stability, we conclude that both athletic performance and public safety could be enhanced through stability optimized footwear.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.1M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Fregly AR, Graybiel A. Labyrinthine defects as shown by ataxia and caloric tests. Acta Otolaryngol. 1970 Mar;69(3):216–222. [PubMed]
  • Wolf-Klein GP, Silverstone FA, Basavaraju N, Foley CJ, Pascaru A, Ma PH. Prevention of falls in the elderly population. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1988 Sep;69(9):689–691. [PubMed]
  • Gabell A, Simons MA, Nayak US. Falls in the healthy elderly: predisposing causes. Ergonomics. 1985 Jul;28(7):965–975. [PubMed]
  • Tinetti ME, Speechley M, Ginter SF. Risk factors for falls among elderly persons living in the community. N Engl J Med. 1988 Dec 29;319(26):1701–1707. [PubMed]
  • Wasson JH, Gall V, McDonald R, Liang MH. The prescription of assistive devices for the elderly: practical considerations. J Gen Intern Med. 1990 Jan-Feb;5(1):46–54. [PubMed]
  • Robbins S, Gouw GJ, McClaran J. Shoe sole thickness and hardness influence balance in older men. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1992 Nov;40(11):1089–1094. [PubMed]
  • McMahon TA, Valiant G, Frederick EC. Groucho running. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1987 Jun;62(6):2326–2337. [PubMed]
  • Assaiante C, Marchand AR, Amblard B. Discrete visual samples may control locomotor equilibrium and foot positioning in man. J Mot Behav. 1989 Mar;21(1):72–91. [PubMed]
  • Auxter DM. Proprioception among intellectually typical and differentially diagnosed educable mentally retarded boys. Percept Mot Skills. 1965 Dec;21(3):751–756. [PubMed]
  • Horvat MA. Effect of a home learning program on learning disabled children's balance. Percept Mot Skills. 1982 Dec;55(3 Pt 2):1158–1158. [PubMed]
  • Warren WH, Jr, Young DS, Lee DN. Visual control of step length during running over irregular terrain. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1986 Aug;12(3):259–266. [PubMed]
  • Kollegger H, Wöber C, Baumgartner C, Deecke L. Stabilizing and destabilizing effects of vision and foot position on body sway of healthy young subjects: a posturographic study. Eur Neurol. 1989;29(5):241–245. [PubMed]
  • Era P, Heikkinen E. Postural sway during standing and unexpected disturbance of balance in random samples of men of different ages. J Gerontol. 1985 May;40(3):287–295. [PubMed]
  • Robbins SE, Gouw GJ. Athletic footwear: unsafe due to perceptual illusions. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991 Feb;23(2):217–224. [PubMed]

Articles from British Journal of Sports Medicine are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group