Current footwear which arc designed for use in running are examples of intentional biomechanical model integration into device design. The inadequacy of this footwear in protecting against injury is postulated to be due to fixation on inadequate models of locomotory biomechanics that do not provide for feedback control; in particular, an hypothesized plantar surface sensory-mediated feedback control system, which imparts overload protection during locomotion.
A heuristic approach was used to identify the hypothesized system. A random series of loads (0 to 164 kg) was applied to the knee flexed at 90°. In this testing system, plantar surface avoidance behavior was the difference between the sum of the leg weight and the load applied to the knee, and the load measured at the plantar surface; this was produced by activation of hip flexors.
Significant avoidance behavior was found in all of the subjects (P < 0.001). On all surfaces tested, including modern athletic footwear (P < 0.001), its magnitude increased directly in relation to the load applied to the knee (P < 0.001). There were significant differences in avoidance behavior in relation to the weight-bearing surfaces tested (P <0.05).
With the identification of a feedback control system which would serve to moderate loading during locomotion, an explanation is provided as to why current athletic footwear do not protect and may be injurious; thus allowing the design of footwear which may be truly protective.