The relationship between immediate comfort and plantar foot sensitivity during running in cushioned versus minimal shoes

Kathryn Ann Grace Mills*, Natalie J. Collins, Bill Vicenzino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In addition to footwear characteristics, it has been hypothesised that plantar foot sensitivity influences the perception of footwear comfort during running. This study examined the relationship between plantar foot sensitivity to light tough, mechanical pain, vibration and pressure pain and footwear comfort rankings of cushioned and minimal shoes during running. Seventy-five participants (Females = 39, Age 35 (SD 8.9) years, BMI 23.7 (3.6) kg/m2), who identified as regular recreational runners, underwent a standardised protocol of quantitative sensory measures. They then ran on a pre-specific 900 m, outdoor track in each shoe. At the completion of both runs, participants were asked to rank the shoes in order of comfort. Participants were grouped based on their top comfort ranking. The 47 individuals who ranked the cushioned shoe as most comfortable were significantly more sensitive to mechanical pain at their heel (mean difference 109.2 mN, 95% confidence interval 9.6 to 208.7; p = 0.032) and lateral midfoot (87.7 mN, 13.2 to 162.2; p = 0.022). They were also significantly less sensitive to vibration at their medial forefoot (mean difference −2.33 s, 95% CI −4.43 to −0.23; p = 0.03) and lateral midfoot (−1.76 s, −3.51 to −0.2; p = 0.048). This study demonstrates that there is an association between plantar foot sensitivity profiles and immediate footwear comfort. This may have implications when advising individuals who prefer cushioned shoes to run in minimal shoes. It may expose them to potentially painful stimuli with detrimental effects on soft tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-27
Number of pages7
JournalFootwear Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018



  • comfort
  • cushioning
  • footwear
  • plantar foot sensitivity
  • running

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