As sports gains momentum in the country, so does the specter of sports injuries. According to latest figures, the sports injuries in India are rising. Last year India reported almost 4 Million plus sports injuries. The exact figures according to the Right Diagnosis website, an online medical health information provider, is 4,082,164. The site goes on to explain that activities that involve repetitive motions, sometimes with traumatic contact with a ground surface or ball, are associated with other musculoskeletal injuries. An extensive literature describes injuries related to jogging and running. Lower-extremity injuries appear to be the most common; of these the knee, ankle, and the foot have the highest proportions of injuries (e.g., torn cartilage, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, neuromas, and shin splints).
This data triggered a few thoughts in my mind.
Firstly, most people in India resort to running or walking on the roads as a form of exercise, primarily due to the lack of infrastructure for exercise in the country. Secondly many Indians with chronic conditions like Diabetes and Hypertension are often advised to walk. In both these cases there is extensive contact with the ground that can lead to musculo-skeletal issues.
To get to the bottom of this issue, I reached out to an agency promoting the new Puma footwear called Mobium. Mobium claims to minimize such injuries. I was connected to Sports Scientist Shyamal Vallabhjee, who played a large role in developing the Mobium range. Some of the information he shared was an eye opener.
According to Shyamal, while running, the impact on your feet is about 5-6 times your body weight. So if you weigh 80 kilograms then the impact on your feet while running is around 400 Kilograms. Injuries are common if one does not wear appropriate footwear. A tight sole, that cannot support the flexibility of a foot’s natural movement, will lead to excessive use of the calf and achilles muscles and could result in plantar fasciitis and other running injuries. Shyamal would know from personal experience, because he is an ultra marathon runner and I know that such runners are regular with their training and shoes can make or break the effectiveness of their training.
Clearly wrong choices with footwear can lead to problems, it appears. What about walking? Does one need to be equally careful while selecting a shoe here? Would consulting a specialist help decide which shoe would be the best fit for you?
Yes, says Shyamal. Irrespective of the age or the medical condition of the person, one should consult a podiatrist to get their gait analyzed and foot striking mapped out, he says. This will help ascertain the perfect shoe for their respective training programs.
This was news to me as I have never consulted a podiatrist to get my gait and foot striking mapped. However, I remember shoe shopping in the US a few years ago. One of the retailers had conducted a mapping on my foot before recommending a New Balance shoe to me. Prior to this experience, I remember my father buying my siblings and me only branded sports shoes, as he was uncertain about the quality of unknown brands. I continued shoe shopping that way partly because branded shoes were more comfortable for my size and were available in greater variety (colors and styles).
Talking of brands, I asked Shyamal about the new Puma Mobium. As an ultra-Marathon runner, Shyamal realized that every runner needed a lightweight running experience with the support of a traditionally cushioned shoe. This was one of the reasons behind the creation of Mobium. In addition, the bio band technology that wraps around your foot allows the shoes to expand and contract with the natural movements of your gait. It has been touted as the perfect shoe for anyone with a mid-foot or fore foot strike (typically associated with sprinters). But one caveat Shyamal does give is that it is not recommended for runners whose weight is above 85 kg and those with a heel strike as they would require additional support to counter the jarring on the ankle joints.
Now I do use a Puma shoe (model is Puma Faas 300). This is definitely a light shoe and has helped me with my movement on the tennis court. I don’t have a Mobium and have not tried it to figure out of it indeed has the features mentioned by Shyamal.
As the market for sportswear grows in India (thanks to rising interests in running as well as a range of formal sports), it will become increasingly important for one to understand and select the right footwear because you are only half as good as your gear.
So what sports shoes do you wear? How do you pick them and what is your experience? Do share your thoughts.