Nonergonomic! Bu Xie, Espadrilles, Aqua Socks
Overload Protection: Avoidance Response to Heavy Plantar Surface Loading
The paradoxical low incidence of similar injuries reported in barefoot populations implies that modern footwear may produce injuries that normally would not be present without their use.
Sensory-induced behavior associated with the physical interaction of the plantar surface with the ground (in the unshod), or the footwear and underlying surface (in the shod), is considered unimportant to the traditional thesis. This omission is astonishing because logically, the plantar surface, being a highly sensible layer, would produce significant sensations in either state, and it is common knowledge that noxious plantar skin sensation can easily induce avoidance behavior
Many years have passed since the first of a series of reports consistently indicated that there is no correlation between the amount of shoe cushioning and impact absorption of footwear during locomotion. (emphasis added) Similarly, epidemiological studies over the same period have provided no evidence of a trend of enhanced protection with modern athletic footwear. (emphasis added) Rather than being dismissed as glaringly incomplete and inadequate, these concepts are still being promoted by biomechanists, physicians, and manufacturers of footwear as an effective solution to the injury problem in high impact environments.
There can also be other explanations of this current situation. Investors may have become too preoccupied with sophisticated hardware rather than their principal task of performing experiments which test hypotheses. Further, as much of this research is "in-house" (performed by footwear company staff or as direct contracts from footwear manufacturers), intellectual freedom may be compromised, resulting in a reluctance on the part of investors to draw conclusions that may undermine current product lines promoted by their employers or patrons.
Whatever the cause, there has been little effort directed at explaining reported data and searching for alternative explanations. Rather, invalid models have led to footwear that do not protect and in fact may be injurious.
Novice medical students are taught a fundamental precept: "First, do no harm!" Industrial design professionals involved in "ergonomic design," while not doctors, should internalize this wisdom from the medical profession. Industrial designers have an ethical obligation to take a hard look at real world empirical evidence before slapping "ergonomically-designed" labels on products they are responsible for.
Shoe manufacturers need not fear such studies as dire threats to the shoe industry. After all, it is possible to arrive at entirely different practical conclusions from the same theoretical data. What the exact solution is, I'm not sure. Perhaps the answer is some sort of thin-soled, lightweight new shoe prototype which does not depart too radically from "socially acceptable" conventional footwear in appearance, but which avoids its ergnomic defects.
Curiously enough, prototypes meeting these criteria might well resemble traditional Chinese cloth shoes or traditional European "espadrilles," only executed in more durable space-age materials, slightly modified for assembly line production. Modern day "Aqua Socks" or "Reef Walkers" come remarkably close to what I have in mind. See illustration(s): Traditional Chinese Shoes, Traditional European Espadrilles, and Aqua Socks/Reef Walkers.
-- Bevin Chu
Explanation: Overload Protection: Avoidance Response to Heavy Plantar Surface Loading
Illustration(s): Traditional Chinese Bu Xie. Traditional Mediterranean Espadrilles. Aqua Socks/Reef Walkers
Author(s): Steven E. Robbins, Adel M. Hanna, and Gerard J. Gouw
Affiliation: "Overload Protection: Avoidance Response to Heavy Plantar Surface Loading," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20(1), 1988, pp. 85-92.
Publication Date: December 27, 1996
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect