OBJECTIVE: This investigation aims to determine if more expensive running shoes provide better cushioning of plantar pressure and are more comfortable than low-cost alternatives from the same brand. METHODS: Three pairs of running shoes were purchased from three different manufacturers at three different price ranges: low (40-45 pounds), medium (60-65 pounds) and high (70-75 pounds). Plantar pressure was recorded with the Pedar in-shoe pressure measurement system. Comfort was assessed with a 100 mm visual analogue scale. A follow-on study was conducted to ascertain if shoe cushioning and comfort were comparable to walking while running on a treadmill. Forty-three and 9 male subjects participated in the main and follow-on studies, respectively. The main outcome measure was the evaluation of plantar pressure and comfort. RESULTS: Plantar pressure measurements were recorded from under the heel, across the forefoot and under the great toe. Differences in plantar pressure were recorded between models and between brands in relation to cost. Shoe performance was comparable between walking and running trials on a treadmill. No significant difference was observed between shoes and test occasions in terms of comfort. CONCLUSIONS: Low- and medium-cost running shoes in each of the three brands tested provided the same (if not better) cushioning of plantar pressure as high-cost running shoes. Cushioning was comparable when walking and running on a treadmill. Comfort is a subjective sensation based on individual preferences and was not related to either the distribution of plantar pressure or cost.
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