5/4/2016 7:48 PM Philip Wells Bsc

Philip Wells Bsc

Gender does make a difference to foot mechanics

Gender does make a difference to foot mechanics

5/4/2016 7:48 PM

Objective: This study investigated the differences of the medial and lateral arches between genders under dynamic loading.

Conclusion: Women have a greater amount of arch movement, both medial (inside) and lateral (outside), when moving from standing to dynamic weight bearing when compared to men.  

 Discussion:

There is a considerable amount of research demonstrating that gender differences in sport are significant. Women are no more at risk from injury as men but the type of injuries are very different. Ferber et al (2003) reported that women are twice as likely to develop lateral (outside) knee pain with Alemeida (1999) finding that women were also up to nine times as likely to get anterior knee pain(The front of the knee).

The fundamental question is why? Well as usual we are not 100% sure but common sense points towards both biomechanical issues of the skeleton, extrinsic causes such as footwear and hormonal differences.

Biomechanical issues include wider hips resulting in higher velocities in the lower limb leading to different loading patterns in the foot.

Hormonal differences are also responsible for differences in women ranging from increased ligamentous laxity at the knee through to the effect of oestrogen on neuromuscular co-ordination.  

Footwear is also a significant issue as most running shoes are designed around men’s lasts (The model that shoes are made on). Women’s feet are usually narrower at the heel than men’s resulting in fitting issues that can predispose them to more blistering, especially at the heels. Also due to a reduced ability to attenuate load, more cushioning is required from footwear and insoles.

So what sensible actions should women do differently to men?

Running shoes may need to be tweaked to ensure a better fit. Simple stick on heel grips to the shoe to improve heel fit may be helpful if blistering is an issue or using Hydrocolloid based blister dressings prior to every big run will have a similar effect. Hormonal issues may be simply dealt with my changing training routines- when oestrogen is high and muscle co-ordination is low, then low impact cross training may be suitable, especially if you have a history of month specific injuries or aches and pains.

Gender-based differences in the functional deformation of the foot longitudinal arch. M Kukanoa,T Fukubayashib. The Foot 22(2012) 6-9

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