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Impact absorption of tennis shoe-surface combinations

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The aim of this study was to investigate, for typical shoes and surfaces used in tennis, the relative role of the shoe and surface in providing cushioning during running. Five test surfaces ranging from concrete to artificial turf were selected, together with two shoe models. Impact absorbing ability was assessed mechanically using drop test procedures and biomechanically using peak magnitude and rate of loading of impact force and peak in-shoe pressure data at the lateral heel. Differences in biomechanical variables between shoe-surface combinations were identified using a two-way ANOVA (p < 0.05). Mechanical test results were found to rank the surfaces in the same order regardless of the shoe model, suggesting that the surface is influential in providing cushioning. However, for all mechanical and biomechanical (p < 0.05) variables representing impact absorbing ability, it was found that the difference between shoes was markedly greater than the differences between surfaces. The peak heel pressure data were found to rank the surfaces in the same order as the mechanical tests, while impact force data were not as sensitive to the changes in surface. Correlations between mechanical and biomechanical impact absorption highlighted the importance of testing the shoe-surface combination in mechanical tests, rather than the surface alone. In conclusion, mechanical testing of the shoe-surface combination was found to provide a strong predictor of the impact absorbing ability during running if pressure data were used. In addition, for typical shoe-surface combinations in tennis, the shoe was found to have more potential than the surface to influence impact loading during running. Finally, in-shoe pressure data were found to be more sensitive than force plate data to changes in material cushioning.

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Correspondence to S. J. Dixon.

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Dixon, S.J., Stiles, V.H. Impact absorption of tennis shoe-surface combinations. Sports Eng 6, 1–9 (2003).

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