Lower leg pain and injuries have long been a problem for runners, but research at Oregon State University-Cascades has shown that one type of running shoe may increase such risks for some runners.

Researchers in the Functional Orthopedic Research Center of Excellence (FORCE) Lab compared the biomechanics associated with “maximal” and “neutral” running shoes in tests with female runners. The study concluded that runners experienced a higher impact peak and increased loading rate with the “maximal” shoes. Increases in both factors are associated with a greater likelihood of injury, such as plantar fasciitis and tibial stress fractures.

The study was published in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine and is believed to be the first rigorous analysis of impacts associated with maximal shoes.

Maximal running shoes feature increased cushioning, particularly in the forefoot region of the midsole, and have gained popularity since being introduced in 2010. More than 20 varieties of maximal shoes are on the market.

Runners wearing maximal shoes, the researchers wrote, have reported feeling the extra cushion after running two to three miles. As a result, the researchers did not expect to find increases in impact peak or loading rate in runners wearing maximal shoes.

In the FORCE Lab study, researchers evaluated the impacts on runners’ feet and legs before and after a simulated 5 000 meter (about 3 miles) run on a treadmill. Each subject wore a neutral running shoe (New Balance 880) for one test and then, after a seven to 10-day waiting period, repeated the procedure with a maximal shoe (Hoke One One Bondi 4). In each test, 3D movements and forces were measured by monitoring reflective markers placed on the runners’ shoes and legs and by having the subjects run over a “force plate” that recorded the forces being applied as the runner’s foot hit the surface.

The study also evaluated the degree of “peak eversion,” the outward turning of the foot, a factor associated with injury risk. The researchers found no difference between the maximal and neutral shoes.

Maximal shoes are becoming very popular, but without controlled studies, clinicians have been unable to make science-based recommendations to runners.

Photo by Rob Kerr / OSU Cascades FORCE Lab running shoe research with Christine Pollard

Cupping therapy has re-emerged as a potential approach to boost post-exercise metabolic recovery, reduce pain, and improve range of motion by increasing local microcirculation. But what does science tell us about the effectiveness or safety of cupping? A new systematic review that examines the results of eleven clinical trials encompassing nearly 500 participants is published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Despite some reports of benefits, including some related to reduced pain and disability, the authors found the reports uneven and found a high risk of bias in the trial designs. They therefore determined that no conclusive recommendations for or against the value of cupping in sports performance can be made until further trials are carried out.

Read some interesting research from an American university on a blend of natural minerals and nutrients that improved the 5 km times of young female runners by almost a minute.

The women who took the supplement also saw improvements in the distance covered in 25 minutes on a stationary bike and a bench exercise. All of the changes were statistically significant and were not seen in the control group that took a placebo.

What caught my eye was the role these nutrients play in how cells work during exercise. Something that I have not seen emphasized in running.

It seems delivery worked well in capsule form and times dropped after a months’ use.

It is expected that the combination will also work well for vegetarian men and might benefit longer-distance running.

A new study from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center examines what may cause chronic back pain in runners and the exercises to help prevent it.

The study, published in the Journal of Biomechanics, suggests that runners with weak deep core muscles are at higher risk of developing low back pain. And, unfortunately, most people’s deep core muscles aren’t nearly as strong as they should be.

To examine the role of the superficial and deep core muscles, researchers used motion detection technology and force-measuring floor plates to estimate muscle movements during activity.

What they found is that weak deep core muscles force more superficial muscles like the abs to work harder and reach fatigue faster. When those superficial muscles are doing the work the deep core should be doing, there are often painful consequences.

When your deep core is weak, your body is able to compensate in a way that allows you to essentially run lie normal. But that increases the load on your spine in a way that may lead to low back pain.

Experts say it’s common for even well-conditioned athletes to neglect their deep core, and there is a lot of misinformation online and in fitness magazines about core strength. Traditional ab exercises with a large range of motion, such as sit-ups or back extensions, will not give you the strong core needed to be a better runner.

Instead, Chaudhari says exercises such as planks that focus on stabilizing the core, especially on unstable surfaces, are what’s really going to make you a better runner.

A child’s attention and memory improves after exercise according to new research supported by the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh.

Researchers found that pupils’ best responses to tests came after physical activity that was set at their own pace, as opposed to exhaustive exercise.

The study is part of the BBC Learning’s Terrific Scientific campaign – designed to inspire schoolchildren to pursue a career in science – and part-funded by the University of Edinburgh and the Physiological Society. A total of 11 613 children in the UK signed up to participate in the research – including 1 536 from Scotland.

It was found that 15 minutes of self-paced exercise can significantly improve a child’s mood, attention and memory – enhancing their ability to learn.

Overall, the study concluded that exercising leads to improvements in children’s mood and cognition. In most tasks, participating in a run/walk activity was more beneficial. Importantly, this exercise should be in addition to normal physical education.

Research by the University of Kent into the effects of brain stimulation on athletes’ performance has demonstrated that it is an effective way to improve endurance.

The findings are expected to advance our understanding of the brain’s role in endurance exercise, how it can alter the physical limits of performance in healthy people and add further evidence to the debate on the use of legal methods to enhance performance in competition.

The research, which was conducted by Dr Lex Mauger and colleagues at Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences (SSES), set out to investigate how endurance limits are a matter for the mind as well as the body.

Dr Mauger discovered that stimulating the brain by passing a mild electrical current (transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS) over the scalp to stimulate it increased the activity of the area associated with muscle contraction. This decreased perception of effort and increased the length of time participants could exercise.

The team explained this is because the exercise felt less effortful following stimulation. tDCS has been used to enhance endurance performance but how it achieved this was previously unknown and this study has helped identify the mechanisms.

“Bilateral extracephalic transcranial direct current stimulation improves endurance performance in healthy individuals” was published in the journal Brain Stimulation.