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Heal Your Heels - Finding the Right Shoes for Shock Absorbency and Joint Pain

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Foot Protection and Joints Protection

In order to lead a healthier, active life that is free from musculoskeletal pain especially leg pain, joint pain or knee pain, we must correct the type of footwear we use daily. While we generally need to walk more or run more rather than lead a sedentary lifestyle, we also need to provide adequate protection for our feet and soles so we can alleviate the stress and discomfort that follow from having such pain especially after sustained physical activity. Ensuring the health of your feet, knees, back and joints is important. As we age the cartilage protecting the joints will deteriorate due to wear and tear that, at some point, activities we take for granted like climbing stairs and walking even short distances can seem a burden. 

Shock Absorbency at the Heels

When we stand, walk or run the part of the feet taking the most pressure is obviously the heels. As the feet hit the ground during what is known as a ‘heelstrike transient’ there is bound to be energy pushed back into the legs from the ground due to the physical law of action and reaction. This energy has to go somewhere and the impact is usually dampened or dispersed by our moving joints. The shoes as well as the insoles should be built to absorb a significant percentage of the impact energy while walking  or running. When impact is absorbed by the footwear, less energy will be transferred to the moving joints hence preventing potential degenerative conditions. Shock absorbency also reduces pain with activity in already existing conditions like osteoarthritis. Running styles, or running with flat or arched feet matter too.

Insoles for Shoes

Shock Absorbing Materials

The materials used in running shoes for absorbing shock are known as viscoelastic materials and they are usually made from various types of polymers and built into foams and elastomers. They are also used to make insoles. The problem with foams, however, is that they tend to deteriorate quite rapidly with use, usually by becoming flatter which reduces elasticity. Foams, which are constructed in cellular form have either open cells with free flow of air like a sponge or closed cells with pressurised air or gas that helps in elastic recovery from impact.  Under repeated loading the foam-type soles remain compressed over time and lose some of their original qualities. Closed-cell foam is somewhat better in this respect. Non-porous rubber in the form of elastomers can be another alternative. Generally if the material is stiffer, it will be more resistant to compression setting but then it also loses the elasticity somewhat and becomes less useful directly under the heel as an absorber compared to being used under the arch of the foot where it is probably more purposeful in providing better support. Hence this may explain many people’s preference of both shock absorbency and arch support but you may run into price issues when looking for the best shock absorbing running shoes so be prudent on what you need and can afford in this class of footwear.

Running shoes

Shoe and Insole Design

The heel pad exists naturally in our feet to absorb impact. In addition, shoe design and insole design take into account various aspects of the impact like the amount of force, angle at which it is applied, the surface and duration of impact as well as the energy involved. Insole design, for example employs more than one material for acceptable performance. There is a lot of research into these for determining the optimum set of conditions for the shoe design as well as the insole design and quality. Accurate information in running shoes reviews should be sought to complement what is provided here for your specific needs.

Shoes and Insoles


Mar 19, 2014 4:07pm
Great tips on running shoes. My recommendation is to always visit your local running store as you typically find knowledgeable staff that can help you select the right shoe for you running style and foot. Also, you typically need to spend over $100 for a solid pair of running shoes.
Mar 19, 2014 6:07pm
Thanks. You are right! For the most part, a good local store will have the answers. If we have a predetermined budget, we can work within that to find an optimal fit, literally.
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  1. The Use Of Viscoelastic Materials In Shoes and Insoles. Chattanooga, Tennessee, Review (By : Michelle W. Whittle, M.D., Ph.D): IMPACTO Protective Products, Inc. , 1996.

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