FOOTWEAR AND INJURIES
Leg muscles function as shock absorbers, and this role of muscle to counteract stress on bones has also been discussed in the research (see included Tibial Stress Injuries article by Beck under Research link). This research has found that less muscle mass present in the lower limbs of athletes with stress fractures as compared to athletes without fractures. This is an important protective mechanism for marching band members, especially when one considers that jumping produces ground reaction forces (GRF) of up to 6 times body weight, jogging produces 3-4 x GRF, and even marching produces elevated stresses on bone increased 1.5 times over; and these forces are further increased by carrying weighted loads. Generally speaking, be sure to look for shoes with good cushioning under heel and ball of foot, as well as good ankle support (ex. running shoes like Asics, Saucony, Brooks, New Balance, Etonic). Ankle braces & footwear with good arch support may be necessary for some, and research has proven the healing value of custom-made orthotic inserts (even standard neoprene shoe insoles can reduce the risk of stress fracture and other injuries. However, one can never place enough importance on the value of leg muscles as shock absorbers!
Motion control, neutral, and minimalist footwear
Motion control shoes are a still-developing trend among several shoe manufacturers –and they are designed to do exactly what their name implies. Since many people exhibit excessive pronation of the foot with their running or walking stride, research has found that this tendency (which goes hand in hand with internal tibial rotation) produces higher loading forces on the foot and can lead to a whole host of running injuries such as stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and iliotibial band (ITB) tendonitis as well as patellafemoral knee pain syndrome (PFPS – see “Neutral vs Motion Control Shoes” research article under Research link). Motion control shoe technology was developed to prevent lower leg muscle overuse in runners by limiting rearfoot pronation during landing.
Neutral shoes are often comprised of a single material in the midsole and are often more lightweight as a result. Unfortunately, if people who exhibit already-occuring rearfoot pronation choose to wear neutral footwear, the excessive rearfoot pronation becomes exponentially worse with high levels of activity. Since excessive foot eversion has been associated with Achilles tendon problems and excessive eversion velocity has been associated with medial tibial stress syndrome (a.k.a., shin splints) this places the person at a high risk of overuse injury (see “Effects of shoe sole construction” link under Research).
Minimalist shoes are very thin and lightweight and designed with just enough bottom layer protection to protect from cuts, punctures, and bruises. This footwear is meant to mimic barefoot conditions. In studies that have compared minimalistic footwear, to barefoot running to regular shod shoes, stride length, flight time, and foot contact time with barefoot running were significantly lower (with stride frequency significantly higher) than in shod running.
Figure example of high arch, normal, and flat foot, respectively