Highly Cushioned Shoes Improve Running Performance in Both the Absence and Presence of Muscle Damage

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2022 Apr 1;54(4):633-645. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002832.


Purpose: We tested the hypotheses that a highly cushioned running shoe (HCS) would 1) improve incremental exercise performance and reduce the oxygen cost (Oc) of submaximal running, and 2) attenuate the deterioration in Oc elicited by muscle damage consequent to a downhill run.

Methods: Thirty-two recreationally active participants completed an incremental treadmill test in an HCS and a control running shoe (CON) for the determination of Oc and maximal performance. Subsequently, participants were pair matched and randomly assigned to one of the two footwear conditions to perform a moderate-intensity running bout before and 48 h after a 30-min downhill run designed to elicit muscle damage.

Results: Incremental treadmill test performance was improved (+5.7%; +1:16 min:ss; P < 0.01) in the HCS when assessed in the nondamaged state, relative to CON. This coincided with a significantly lower Oc (-3.2%; -6 mL·kg-1·km-1; P < 0.001) at a range of running speeds and an increase in the speed corresponding to 3 mM blood lactate (+3.2%; +0.4 km·h-1; P < 0.05). As anticipated, the downhill run resulted in significant changes in biochemical, histological, and perceptual markers of muscle damage, and a significant increase in Oc (+5.2%; 10.1 mL·kg-1·km-1) was observed 48 h post. In the presence of muscle damage, Oc was significantly lower in HCS (-4.6%; -10 mL·kg-1·km-1) compared with CON.

Conclusions: These results indicate that HCS improved incremental exercise performance and Oc in the absence of muscle damage and show, for the first time, that despite worsening of Oc consequent to muscle damage, improved Oc in HCS is maintained.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Exercise Test
  • Humans
  • Muscles
  • Running* / physiology
  • Shoes*