Softstar Collaborates with Researchers in Australian Foot Health Study

PHILOMATH, Ore., May 12, 2021 /PRNewswire/ —¬†Softstar has begun a collaboration with the University of Sydney and Western Sydney University to study how foot development in children is affected by the shoes they wear. This study is led by Professor Roy Cheung, Dr Alycia Fong Yan, Professor Irene Davis (Harvard University), and Dr Shayan Quinlan.

After treating endurance athletes for two decades and developing a deep understanding of how the human foot functions, Dr Quinlan has now turned her attention to footwear worn by school children. Children in Australia are often required to wear shoes that fit a specific dress code, and these shoes are traditionally bulky and stiff. There has been virtually no research done to determine the long-term effects of shoe designs on children, and Dr Quinlan’s clinical care of adults wearing minimalist shoes led her to wonder if minimalist shoe styles would provide benefits to a child’s developing feet. Minimalist shoes are designed to mimic the effects of walking barefoot by using soles that are thin and flexible with little-to-no cushioning.

For her initial study, Dr Quinlan recruited 70 children aged 9-12 who were split into 2 groups: children who wore traditional rigid school shoes and children who wore very flexible minimalist shoes. Each group wore their assigned shoes regularly for 9 months while at school. Two days each week were sports days when the children wore their own trainers, so the assigned shoes were worn for roughly 18 hours per week. Measurements were taken at the beginning and end of the study to track toe flexor strength, foot muscle size (using ultrasound) and motor skills in the form of balance and forward jumping. Initial results showed that children who wore flexible shoes developed better balance and stronger foot muscles.

Upon learning of the study, Professor Cheung approached Dr Quinlan about pursuing the research further. Professor Cheung, who worked on barefoot running research at Harvard with Professor Irene Davis, had previously proposed a very similar study and had already been accepted to run a pilot trial on 35 children to examine the effects of minimalist footwear. The two researchers are now collaborating with Dr Fong Yan, Director of the University of Sydney’s Biomechanics Laboratory, to repeat Dr Quinlan’s trial and compare the results.

Softstar, who manufactures minimalist footwear at a workshop in Oregon, was approached by the team with a request to provide the flexible, minimalist shoes to be used in the study. Softstar has a history of designing and crafting some of the most minimal, barefoot-like shoe styles available, including a Primal line of shoes that feature the most spacious toe box currently on the market. The wide toe box allows the wearer’s toes to splay out naturally instead of being constrained or compressed by a traditionally tapered shoe shape. The shoemaking company agreed to assist with the study and sent dozens of their Primal RunAmoc shoes for the children to wear during the trial.

The study will not be complete for several months, but if the research confirms the results of the original trial then this will be the first substantial evidence to show that minimalist shoes are more beneficial for developing children’s feet than shoes that are bulky and stiff.

Alison Brody

SOURCE Softstar Shoes