Shoe-surface interface characteristics have been implicated in the high incidence of ankle injuries suffered by athletes. Yet, the differences in rotational stiffness among shoes may also influence injury risk. It was hypothesized that shoes with different rotational stiffness will generate different patterns of ankle ligament strain. Four football shoe designs were tested and compared in terms of rotational stiffness. Twelve (six pairs) male cadaveric lower extremity limbs were externally rotated 30 deg using two selected football shoe designs, i.e., a flexible shoe and a rigid shoe. Motion capture was performed to track the movement of the talus with a reflective marker array screwed into the bone. A computational ankle model was utilized to input talus motions for the estimation of ankle ligament strains. At 30 deg of rotation, the rigid shoe generated higher ankle joint torque at 46.2 ± 9.3 Nm than the flexible shoe at 35.4 ± 5.7 Nm. While talus rotation was greater in the rigid shoe (15.9 ± 1.6 deg versus 12.1 ± 1.0 deg), the flexible shoe generated more talus eversion (5.6 ± 1.5 deg versus 1.2± 0.8 deg). While these talus motions resulted in the same level of anterior deltoid ligament strain (approxiamtely 5%) between shoes, there was a significant increase of anterior tibiofibular ligament strain (4.5± 0.4% versus 2.3 ± 0.3%) for the flexible versus more rigid shoe design. The flexible shoe may provide less restraint to the subtalar and transverse tarsal joints, resulting in more eversion but less axial rotation of the talus during foot/shoe rotation. The increase of strain in the anterior tibiofibular ligament may have been largely due to the increased level of talus eversion documented for the flexible shoe. There may be a direct correlation of ankle joint torque with axial talus rotation, and an inverse relationship between torque and talus eversion. The study may provide some insight into relationships between shoe design and ankle ligament strain patterns. In future studies, these data may be useful in characterizing shoe design parameters and balancing potential ankle injury risks with player performance.

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