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Robbins-Gouw Hypothesis - are Running Shoes Unsafe?

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Griff, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. Griff

    Griff Moderator

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    Bit of an off shoot of the barefoot running and leg stiffness threads really - but a quick search showed there was no thread on this yet so I thought why not; maybe it will generate some discussion despite the overlap with the aforementioned threads. From what I can find the gist of it is that running shoes may contribute to injury by creating a perceptual illusion of lower impact force, via this mechanism:

    Excessive cushioning of shoes decreases proprioceptive feedback --> the body becomes unable to judge the severity of the impact --> there is reduced 'inbuilt' impact moderating behaviour --> INCREASED IMPACT.

  2. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Re: Robbins-Gouw Hypothesis

    Robbin's and Gouw's Sensory Attenuation Hypothesis is just that, a hypothesis....a very good hypothesis that does appear to make intuitive sense. They have done a number of experiments that provides some data that is consistent with the hypothesis, but does not prove the hypothesis (however, they and many others have taken this as proof of the hypothesis).

    Unfortunately, they have applied a lot of 2+2=5 (or even =6 or 7) logic and editorialised their research results to jump to conclusions that running shoes are unsafe. There work did not show that. Just look at the nature of the research in the abstract above and look at the title of the paper - did the research actually show what the title claims? In most of their publications they had similar 'editorialised' titles to sensationalise it. The research they do is good and consistent with the hypothesis, but it does not warrant the type of conclusions that they leap to. Most of the titles, discussions and conclusions of their research center around the consequences of the hypothesis if it is correct and does not necessarily focus on the research that they just presented - unfortunatly people focus on the title of the paper and the discussion.

    Also unfortunately, others (especially the barefoot running community and anti-running shoe community) have taken the editorialised parts of their work to be gospel and fact without any sort of analysis of its underpinnings to make all sorts of extraordinary claims (eg I came across one recently, that running shoes were the cause of plantar fasciitis and they cited Robbins et al work as the source --- they never even did a study on plantar fasciitis!).

    A large basis of their claims as a result of this hypothesis is that it is the soft running shoes actually cause all the impact injuries in runners. BUT, as we discussed in another thread, there is no such thing as an impact injury. There is NO evidence that increased impacts actually cause any injury or increase the chance of getting an injury!

    So, even if the hypothesis does turn out to be correct and running shoes do increase impact, is that even a problem or issue? (the barefoot running community contend it is, but provide no data to back up the strength of the claims that they make - this is the point I keep making about them misrepresenting research).

    I have certainly speculated that the sensory attenuation hypothesis may be a factor in increasing impact and risk for tissue damage in those with diabetes as the sensory neuropathy develops (ie the perceptual illusions that happen as the insensate - but thats massively difference to what is probably a minor illusion from a soft running shoes).
  3. For those who are interested in following the story on Robbins and Gouw more closely, here are three of the articles that these authors published back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, followed by a rather salty response from Ned Frederick and Peter Cavanagh to their papers.

    And you guys thought that it was just podiatrists that had the good fights! :boxing::cool:
  4. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Me-ow! Think we have contenders here for a tag team celebrity deathmatch!

    So the main issues with Robbins and Gouws work seemed to be:

    • Although they wish to extrapolate their data to running, their results are collected in a lab setting that involves contrived movements and atypical limb postures (i.e they do not actually study running mechanics)

    • The assertion that cutaneous receptors are the only data the body uses to monitor damaging stresses is untenable/unproven.

    • They mis-cite literature regarding injury rates increasing over the years, and also mis-cite biomechanical studies that support their contention that shoes are 'unsafe'
    • Their article referring to shoes being 'unsafe' actually had nothing to do with safety (and little to do with athletic shoes)
  5. William Fowler

    William Fowler Active Member

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