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Details of Dr. Craig Richards’ Proposed Study

Posted by on Jun 8, 2011 | 7 Comments

Earlier this week, I posted some news about Dr. Craig Richards’ proposed running shoe study.  The response has been tremendous!  Some shoe manufacturers have already expressed interest and/or committed, with many more in the works.  Many of you have been asking excellent methodology-related questions.  This is the latest info Dr. Richards has forwarded to me.

Note- I am not part of this research… I’m only reporting the details and helping to recruit the companies.  😉  If you have any questions or recommendations, feel free to add them to the comments on this post.  I’ll advise Dr. Richards to consult them as a source of feedback.


Finding The World’s Best Running Shoe

  1. Background:
    • A huge variety of wildly divergent running shoe designs currently exist in the market place
    • It is currently unknown which of these designs is superior
  2. Objective:
    • To compare the effects of a wide variety of commercially available running shoes on injury rates and performance.
    • To make this information widely available to runners, footwear retailers, footwear prescribers and footwear manufacturers to assist them to understand which shoes best serve the needs of runners
  3. Method:
    • Footwear manufacturers will be invited to nominate the trail shoe and road running shoe from their range which best meets the needs of the following group of runners:
      1. age 18+
      2. run for at least 30 minutes three times per week
      3. have been competing in distance running events (5km or greater) for at least 2 years
      4. have a season best time over their preferred distance has not varied by more than 5% over the past two years
      5. wear the same pair of shoes when training and racing
      6. do not wear orthotics


    • If a manufacturer’s design philosophy requires them to provide a number of different shoes in each category to be allocated to runners with differing characteristics (eg foot type), this is acceptable as long as a clear protocol is provided on how shoes should be fitted.
    • 50 runners will be recruited to test each shoe nominated
    • Runners recruited to participate in the study will participate in a baseline 5km time trial wearing their existing shoes. They will also complete a baseline questionnaire detailing their running and injury history
    • Runners will then be randomly allocated to wear one of the shoes being tested for the 12 month duration of the trial
    • Runners will be professionally fitted with their allocated shoes as per the manufacturer’s instructions
    • If the manufacturer so wishes, they can provide the runners wearing their shoes with instructions on how best to run wearing their shoes and how best to transition into wearing their shoes.
    • Runners will then complete further 5km time trials at 3 month intervals and will complete 3 monthly training and injury questionnaires.
    • Trail shoes testers will complete their time trials on trails. Road shoe testers will complete their time trials on a sealed surface.
  1. Results:
    • The performance, injury rates and enjoyment of running of the groups wearing different shoes will be compared.
    • A performance index will be calculated for each shoe based on the average change in performance for runners in that group over the course of the trial
      1. eg if runners wearing Shoe A improve their performance by an average of 2% by the 12 month mark this shoe will be allocated a performance index of -2%
      2. eg if runners wearing Shoe B are on average running 1% slower at the 12 month mark than they were at the start of the trial, this shoe will be allocated a performance index of +1%
      3. Shoes will be ranked on the basis of their performance index to identify the best shoe for distance running performance
    • An injury index will also be calculated for each shoe based on the number of weeks of running related soreness and injury that occur in the final 6 months of the trial (this allows an initial 6 months for runners to adapt to their new shoes without this initial soreness and/or injuries affecting the outcome)
      1. Eg if runners wearing Shoe A on average had to reduce their training for 4.2 weeks in the final 6 months of the trial because of running related soreness or injury, Shoe B will receive an injury index of 4.2
      2. Eg if runners wearing Shoe B had no weeks of reduced training then Shoe B will receive an injury index of 0
      3. Shoes will be ranked on the basis of their injury index to identify the best injury prevention shoe
    • The shoe with the best average rank when both performance and injury are considered will claim the title of World’s Best Road Running Shoe or World’s Best Trail Running Shoe
    • Further more detailed and statistical analysis will be performed for academic publication.
  2. Resources:
    • Shoe manufacturers will need to provide an initial run of sizes for each shoe nominated for fitting purposes
    • Shoe manufacturers will then provide additional pairs of shoes required to fit the 50 runners allocated to their group and replacement pairs as required for the 12 month duration of the trial.
    • Dr Richards in conjunction with the University of Newcastle will provide the resources required to undertake the study
    • Sponsorship may be sought from interested parties such as running magazines.
    • Sponsorship will not be accepted from shoe manufacturers.
  3. Proposed Timeline
    • Finalise participating companies by end July 2011
    • Ethics approval process August 2011
    • Commence recruitment of runners September 2011
    • Baseline time trials November 2011-February 2012
    • Complete study November 2012-February 2013
    • Announce Worlds Best Running Shoe and category winners March 2013
    • Publish full results in scientific literature May 2013




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  1. Aaron
    June 13, 2011

    It might be interesting if the study also published how many shoes on average each group had to use over the 1 year period of study. A truly “great” shoe should be one that can last far longer than the suggested 300 mile replacement limit seen on many traditional models.

    I agree that there needs to be a barefoot control group. Being able to compare injury rates between shod and barefoot runners in a larger scale scientifically controlled study should provide additional support for barefoot running even if the BFR’s aren’t eligible for a title in March 2013.

  2. Patton Gleason
    June 10, 2011

    Love the idea and hopefully this is a first step towards transparency in the running industry. I would be interesting to see how the efficiency of a runners gait cycle play? Good progress.

  3. Mark Lofquist
    June 9, 2011

    i’d like to participate in this study.

  4. Jamoosh
    June 9, 2011

    The only issue I see is with fitting. “Professional” fitting can lead to different results depending on whom is doing the fitting.

    • Denise Skidmore
      June 9, 2011

      But the fitting is specified by the manufacturer. This is probably a much better fitting than you would get in the shoe store, as it is customized to the exact model being tried on. Sure, there maybe should be a better model for fitting shoes, but that’s not what the study is about.

  5. Brant
    June 8, 2011

    I hope half the runners assigned to each shoe will be barefooters (the rule) and the other half non-barefooters (the exception).

  6. Nathan
    June 8, 2011

    Should there be a barefoot “control” group?