Great Trainers or Cash Drainers?

When you're buying training shoes, do you really get what you pay for? Professor Rami Abboud doesn't think you do...
14 October 2007

Interview with 

Professor Rami Abboud, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School at the University of Dundee


Chris -   Now, there's a very interesting study that's been done this week and to join us to talk about it is Professor Rami Abboud. Hello Rami, how are you?

Rami -   Hello!

ShoesChris -   Thank you for joining us.  Now, people think that the more you spend on a pair of trainers the better they're going to be for your sporting prowess but you're saying that's not the case?

Rami -   Well, that's what we've found in a study that we've conducted.  This is a part of a bigger study, in fact.  The database got published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine from a much smaller part of a study that was started some five years ago.  What we've done with this study is we've taken three brands and for each brand we have taken low-, medium- and high-cost running shoes.  We've compared these three within the same brand.  We've used a system called Pedar® which has electronic insoles with 99 sensors each, capable of measuring the pressure between the trainer and the plantar surface of the foot.  Then we compared the outcome between the different price tags of each brand and then across the brand. 

What we found was that the medium cost and the low-cost running shoes are as good as the most expensive ones if not better within the categories that we have chosen.

Chris -   Now, you chose quite a narrow price-banding, if I may say so.  I mean GBP30 for a pair of trainers in my book is quite expensive.  I go and buy the tenner variety.  So what do you think would happen if you bought the really cheap trainers?

Rami -   What we have done is look at the branded names.  Now, one thing we have not done is look at the non-branded ones.  We looked at the branded ones and have actually covered the price tags from GBP30 to GBP150.  But this data that we have published now only covered the GBP40-GBP75 bracket.

Chris -   So the bottom line is, don't waste money on some really expensive trainers because there's no benefit to your bones through doing that.

Rami -   Well, the effect of cushioning that we've found in the lower and medium was as good as the most expensive in the ones that we tested.  What I would advise the consumers to buy are trainers that are going to fit length and width.  They have to be comfortable for them, the shoes have to conform to the feet and that should be irrespective of the price tag.  Someone's going to tell me that some of the higher-end has support, more than lower band.  I would refute that because within the brand there are, at the lower end as well, support for the feet.  You should go with what is best for your feet irrespective of the price tag.

Chris -   So how do these big name brands get away with telling us we should be parting with GBP100 for a set of trainers when actually your clinical evidence says that there's no benefit of doing that.

Rami -   Well, I think that's a question that should go to the manufacturers.

Chris -   Will you be sending them a copy of this paper?  They're obviously ripping people off, aren't they?

Rami -   Well this paper is available for anybody to download from the journal.  We have, as I said, done extensive studies on these trainers.  There will be a series of these papers coming out each year, covering endurance, covering - will they go the extra mile - and so forth.  It has been a comprehensive study, not only using sensor-pressure devices but we even used Pedar® meters to look at the shock waves.

Chris -   Well, thank you very much for telling us about that, Rami.

Rami -   Pleasure.

Chris -   That was Professor Rami Abboud, he's from the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School at the University of Dundee.


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