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Biomechanics Help Create More Comfortable Shoes

BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 7, 2014 — Biomechanics and old fashioned shoe making have joined forces to bring unprecedented comfort to people’s feet.

Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) conducted a biomechanical study of footwear made by Spain-based shoe manufacturer Camper. The study used optical motion capture systems, force plates, pressure insoles and electromyography sensors.

A group of 54 volunteers participated in the study, trying on six models of men’s shoes and six models of women’s shoes. Pressure insoles were placed between the foot and the shoe to record the pressure applied to the foot. Force plates were also employed, permitting the measurement of the contact forces between the ground and the user when walking.

An optical motion capture system was used, which consisted of 18 cameras that allowed constant monitoring of the movement of the person’s legs while walking.


A new study has researchers in Spain using biomechanics to help Camper develop new, more comfortable footwear. Courtesy of the Biomedical Engineering Research Centre.

The researchers also used electromyography sensors — electrodes that record the activity of the muscles in the human body. Here, the study was focused on the movement of the ankle joint, as this is the closest to the shoe, said Josep Maria Font, director of the division of biomechanics at UPC’s Biomedical Engineering Research Centre (CREB) and leader of the study.

“On the basis of this electrical measurement we have also been able to establish how much muscular activity is required when using one shoe or another,” he said. “With this study [Camper] wants to improve this knowledge using a scientific approach which could be measured objectively using mathematical models.”

Researchers sought to establish the parameters affecting the comfort of various types of shoes made by Camper. This is the first initiative of its kind, Font said. Until now, this type of biomechanical study had only been applied to sports footwear.

The researchers said that upon completion of the study, a statistical analysis was made of the physical measurements and key parameters were obtained. These include a template of the angle of the ankle or knee, calculated using mechanical engineering algorithms. Now, Font said, before a new shoe model is launched, Camper can first take it to the CREB laboratory where the algorithm-based parameters that determine its comfort can be measured.

“With this information, the statistical data and the results of the survey, we were able to determine which parameters were more closely linked to the comfort perceived by the user,” Font said. “This will provide the company with tangible references and data that will enable them to objectively improve new models.”

CREB is now exploring the possibility of conducting similar studies with other footwear brands and manufacturers.

For more information, visit www.creb.upc.edu.


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