Increased footwear comfort is associated with improved running economy – a systematic review and meta-analysis
Van Alsenoy, Ken K.
van der Linden, Marietta
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Van Alsenoy, K.K., van der Linden, M., Girard, O. and Santos, D. (2021) 'Increased footwear comfort is associated with improved running economy – a systematic review and meta-analysis', European Journal of Sports Sciences (In Press).
Footwear with or without custom foot orthotics have the potential to improve comfort, but the link with running performance needs further investigation. We systematically reviewed the association of footwear comfort on running economy in recreational runners. Nine electronic databases were searched from inception to March 2020. Eligible studies investigated both direct outcome measures of running performance (e.g. running speed) and/or physiological measures (e.g. running economy (RE)) alongside comfort for each footwear condition tested. Methodological quality was assessed using the ‘Effective Public Health Practice Project’ (EPHPP). RE during submaximal running was the most common physiological outcome reported in 4 of the 6 eligible studies. The absolute difference in RE between the most and least comfortable footwear condition was computed, and meta-analysis was conducted using a random effect model. The most comfortable footwear is associated with a reduction in oxygen consumption (MD: -2.06 mL.kg−1.min−1, 95%CI: -3.71, -0.42, P = 0.01) while running at a set submaximal speed. There was no significant heterogeneity (I2=0%, P=0.82). EPHPP quality assessment demonstrated weak quality of the studies, due to reporting bias and failing to disclose the psychometric properties of the outcome measures. It can be concluded with moderate certainty that improved RE in recreational athletes is associated with wearing more comfortable footwear compared to less comfortable footwear.