The Role of Shoe Design in Ankle Sprain Rates Among
Collegiate Basketball Players
Claudia K. Curtis, MS, ATC*; Kevin G. Laudner, PhD, ATC?; Todd A. McLoda,
PhD, ATC?; Steven T. McCaw, PhD?
*Orthopaedic Associates of Wisconsin, Waukesha, WI;3Illinois State University, Normal, IL
Context: Much of the recent focus in shoe design and
engineering has been on improving athletic performance.
Currently, this improvement has been in the form of ‘‘cushioned
column systems,’’ which are spring-like in design and located
under the heel of the shoe in place of a conventional heel
counter. Concerns have been raised about whether this design
alteration has increased the incidence of ankle sprains.
Objective: To examine the incidence of lateral ankle sprains
in collegiate basketball players with regard to shoe design.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Certified athletic trainers at 1014 National Collegiate
Athletic Association (NCAA)-affiliated schools sponsoring bas-
ketball during the 2005–2006 regular season were notified of an
online questionnaire. Athletic trainers at 22 of the 1014 schools
Patients or Other Participants: A total of 230 basketball
players (141 males, 89 females; age 5 20.2 6 1.5 years) from
NCAA Division I–III basketball programs sustained lateral ankle
Main Outcome Measure(s): Ankle sprain information and
type of shoe worn (cushioned column or noncushioned column)
were collected via online survey. The incidence of lateral ankle
sprains and type of shoes worn were compared using a chi-
Results: No difference was noted in ankle sprain incidence
between groups (x25 2.44, P 5 .20, relative risk 5 1.47, 95%
confidence interval [CI] 5 0.32, 6.86). The incidence of ankle
sprains was 1.33 per 1000 exposures in the cushioned column
group (95% CI 5 0.62, 3.51) and 1.96 per 1000 exposures in the
noncushioned column group (95% CI 5 0.51, 4.22).
Conclusions: No increased incidence of ankle sprains was
associated with shoe design.
Key Words: cushioned column shoe system, athletic inju-
ries, lower extremity injuries
Shoe design did not play a major role in ankle sprain incidence among collegiate basketball players.
Cushioned column shoes did not increase the risk of injury in collegiate basketball players.
A significant percentage of collegiate basketball players wore prophylactic ankle supports while participating, leading to a
decrease in ankle injuries.
1983 reported that the United States spent approximately
$2 billion that year on moderate and severe ankle sprains;
the 2008 estimate is $4.22 billion with inflation.3Thus,
although ankle sprains are often seen as commonplace, the
economic ramifications are significant. Studies4–10 of
athletes have shown that these statistics carry over to the
sports world, particularly basketball. Basketball players
frequently land on another competitor’s foot, causing an
awkward, plantar-flexed inversion moment and stretching
the lateral ankle ligaments beyond their capacity, resulting
in an ankle sprain.4,9,11–15These ankle sprains leave the
competitor with initial pain and swelling6,7but can also
lead to long-term problems, such as costly medical bills,
subsequent sprains,16,17decreased strength,6,16instabili-
ty,6,16delayed muscle reaction time,16,18and disability.16,18
Preventing ankle sprains becomes critically important to
basketball players, coaches, strength and conditioning
experts, team physicians, and certified athletic trainers
(ATs) in order to minimize time and money lost and
maximize their success.7,9,14–17
nkle sprains are one of the most common injuries
in the United States, accounting for as many as
23000 injuries per day.1Authors2of a study in
The mission statements of many athletic footwear manu-
facturers focus on creating innovative designs using technol-
ogy to improve comfort and athletic performance.19–21Some
it during liftoff, aiming to increase forceoutput. According to
the Web site,21Nike shoes are reported to increase vertical
sprint times. Currently, this concept has been delivered in the
form of spring-like columns (‘‘cushioned column systems’’)
under the heel of the shoe in place of conventional heel
been reported. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to
determine the effect of shoes with cushioned column systems
under the heel on the frequency of lateral ankle sprains. We
hypothesized that collegiate basketball players wearing the
cushioned column shoe design would have a higher incidence
of lateral ankle sprains than those not wearing this shoe type.
Twenty-two collegiate ATs from National Collegiate
Athletic Association (NCAA) Divisions I, II, and III
Journal of Athletic Training
gby the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, Inc
230 Volume 43 N Number 3 N June 2008
institutions participated in this study. The ATs recorded
the type of shoe, practice and game exposures, and lateral
ankle injuries for 141 male and 89 female collegiate
basketball players between the ages of 18 years and 24
years (age 5 20.2 6 1.5 years).
Athletes with a history of a lower extremity injury within
from this study. Consent to participate in this study was
obtained by each team’s AT, and the study was approved by
the Illinois State University Institutional Review Board.
A survey was constructed to address the specifics of each
lateral ankle sprain encountered throughout the 2005–2006
basketball season. The survey was posted online at a Web
page accessible to the ATs to record lateral ankle sprains
and total exposures (practices and games) on a weekly
basis. The AT was responsible for recording information
about each sprain, including ankle sprain type and any
prophylactic measures in place when injured. Other
information recorded included sex, division of competition,
and the setting in which the sprain occurred (practice or
game). We specifically looked at the type of shoes worn
when the lateral ankle sprain was sustained. The AT was
required to document the number of total exposures as a
weekly demographic measurement. An exposure was
defined as 1 athlete’s participation in 1 game or practice.23
A list of all NCAA participating institutions was
obtained using the 2005 NCAA directory.24A search of
the institutions’ Web sites was performed to obtain contact
information for those ATs working with basketball
players. All ATs were contacted via e-mail about partic-
ipating in the study. The 22 ATs who consented were
responsible for maintaining records on each ankle sprain
they evaluated and treated during the 2005–2006 collegiate
basketball regular season. An ankle sprain was defined as
an injury to the ankle ligaments.25Only injuries to the
ankle ligaments resulting in absence from at least 1 day of
activity were recorded by ATs as ankle sprains.26Cush-
ioned column shoes were defined by Aguinaldo and
Mahar22as rearfoot cushioning systems made in the form
of spring-like columns.
At the beginning of the season, the ATs at participating
schools received a cover letter describing the purpose of
our study along with a sample questionnaire. This form
provided the AT with a guide to the information to be
recorded during the season in an attempt to improve the
return rate. All ATs were informed that a cushioned
column shoe should be defined as one with a spring-like
rearfoot cushioning system, column-like in design. Each
AT filled out questionnaires on a weekly basis document-
ing the number and types of exposures encountered that
week. In this information, the ATs were required to stratify
their exposures based on prophylactic measures in place
during the activity. Any ankle injuries encountered that
week were reported at that time as well. Specifics about the
ankle sprain were documented (Table 1). Participants with
questions were directed to correspond with the authors via
e-mail. We sent monthly e-mails reminding the ATs to
continue to submit their data.
Once submitted to the Web site, data were converted
into a spreadsheet file (version Excel XP; Microsoft Corp,
Redmond, WA). These data were then exported into the
SPSS software package (version 11.5; SPSS Inc, Chicago,
IL). Chi-square analysis was used to examine the signifi-
cance of any differences between those athletes wearing
Table 1. Survey Instrument
1. Injured Athlete:
3. Affected Limb:
4. Injury Occurrence:
5. Prophylactic Measures Used:
6. Sprain Type:
If recurrent, date of last episode
7. Type of Injury:
8. Degree of Sprain:
Uneven surface: landing on another player’s foot
Force: cutting, planting and pivoting
Contact: collision with another player
10. Shoes Worn During Injury:
11. Shoe Type When Injured:
Adidas Team MAC
Journal of Athletic Training231
cushioned column shoes and those not wearing these shoes.
Chi-square analysis was used to examine the effect of
prophylactic measures, adjusting for athlete-exposures.
Relative risk was then calculated to compare the incidence
of injury between groups. Level of significance was set a
priori at P , .05.
No difference was noted in the incidence of lateral ankle
sprains between collegiate basketball players wearing
cushion columned and those wearing noncushioned col-
umn shoes (Tables 2 and 3). Athletes wearing cushioned
column shoes sustained 41 ankle sprains; those wearing
noncushioned column shoes, 27. The incidence of ankle
sprains with cushioned column shoes was 1.33 ankle
sprains per 1000 exposures (95% confidence interval [CI]
5 0.62, 3.51). In athletes wearing noncushioned column
shoes, the incidence was 1.96 ankle sprains per 1000
exposures (95% CI 5 0.51, 4.22). No difference was
observed in lateral ankle sprains between the control and
experimental groups (x25 2.44, P 5 .2, relative risk 5
1.47, 95% CI 5 0.32, 6.86).
Ankle sprain incidence values in our study were similar
to those previously reported. McKay et al6 found an
incidence of 3.85 ankle sprains per 1000 exposures in
recreational and elite basketball players. These ankle sprain
rates were also consistent with those seen by Dick et al27
and Agel et al28in NCAA athletes.
Our results showed no evidence that the presence of cu-
shioned column systems contributed to an increased inci-
dence of lateral ankle sprains among collegiate basketball
growing anecdotal evidence and speculation within the
athletic training community over the past few years.
Many authors22,29–31have assessed the effect of shoe
construction on various kinematic and kinetic factors.
Hansen and Childress29and Kersting et al30looked at
shoe-surface interaction of nonathletic shoes based on heel
height and degree of plantar flexion. Kersting et al30
examined the effect of midsole stiffness, cushioning, and
heel height in lower extremity loading among food caterers.
Shoe heel height influenced how the body interacted with
the ground, leading to changes in muscular and mechanical
loading conditions. These shoes also had the least amount
of deformation on contact, prohibiting ankle pronation.
Hansen and Childress29 investigated the effect of heel
height during walking. Shoes of mid and high heel height
were used, with the overall difference between the rearfoot
and forefoot sole thickness quantified. Rollover shape was
then examined during walking. People in higher heels
adapted to the change in heel height by allowing their ankle
joints to rest in a more plantar-flexed position, leading to a
more supinated rollover shape with walking.
Specific nuances of shoe design may play a role in lower
extremity kinematics in both everyday and sport-specific
activities.22,29–31Some of these factors, such as increased
heel height, may place the lower extremity in a compro-
mised position that may make the person vulnerable to
ankle sprains. Basketball shoes with an increased heel
height may also prevent normal pronation motion,
increasing the risk of lateral ankle sprains.
Shoes must also be designed to limit inversion stress on
the ankle, which is greatest in supination, a combination of
inversion and plantar flexion.12,15 The major concern
about cushioned column shoe design that had not been
addressed previously22involved the capacity to minimize
lateral ankle motion due to the perceived increase in
plantar flexion at rest. Lateral stability is a major concern
for the ankle, and increasing the plantar-flexion angle of
the ankle joint causes the body to rely more on ligamentous
support as the source of ankle stabilization.15By placing
the ankle in a state of initial plantar flexion, it could be
hypothesized that less movement and external force were
required to cause a lateral ankle sprain. The findings of
Wright et al15were somewhat inconclusive with regard to
quantifying a specific angle of plantar flexion that led to
ankle sprains, but the threshold for ankle sprain occurrence
was considered to be 326 of supination. Although other
angles produced similar results, questions arose as to
whether or not supination at touchdown would occur in
the same manner in a situation outside the laboratory.
Possible limitations of our study include the inability to
regulate the use of other external support measures. Of the
30765 exposures in the cushioned column shoe group,
external support was used during 22375 exposures (72.7%).
In the noncushioned column group, external support was
used during 9278 of the 13 794 (67.3%). These rates were
assumed to be random across the shoe conditions, based on
the data collected. Another limitation was the reliance on
external data collectors for research in our study. Survey
research relies heavily on other people to collect data. This
leads to the assumption that all of the ATs in this study
adhered to the guidelines in terms of inclusion and
exclusion criteria. The volunteer pool in our study was
Table 2.Results of Survey on Ankle Sprain Incidence
Shoe Type Ankle Sprains
Without SprainsBracedTaped Both Neither
aExposure indicates 1 athlete’s participation in 1 game or practice.
Number of Ankle Sprains by Shoewear and
Braced and taped
Neither braced nor
232Volume 43 N Number 3 N June 2008
small given the overall population invited to participate. Download full-text
Significant results might have been obtained with a greater
response rate. Lastly, the cushioned column shoes are
available in 2 designs. One involves the columns just under
the heel, whereas the other has columns spanning the entire
length of the shoe sole. The shoe design was recorded for
those athletes suffering sprains; however, the designs were
not monitored in overall exposures.
Future researchers should quantify the actual plantar
flexion angle required to increase the risk of lateral ankle
sprains. Investigators should also address the likelihood of
ankle sprains among athletes wearing different styles of
cushioned column shoes, as well as the relationships
between previous ankle injury and type of prophylactic
device(s) worn in determining the incidence of ankle
injuries. Repeating this study using a much larger sample
size may also yield beneficial results.
We found no difference in the lateral ankle sprain rates
of collegiate basketball athletes wearing cushioned column
shoes and those wearing noncushioned column shoes. Our
hypothesis that cushioned column system shoes reduce the
amount of lateral stability in the ankle joint as a result of a
perceived increase in ankle plantar flexion was not
supported. Therefore, these results do not indicate that
wearing cushioned column system shoes places the athlete
at greater risk for sustaining a lateral ankle sprain.
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Claudia K. Curtis, MS, ATC, and Kevin G. Laudner, PhD, ATC, contributed to conception and design; acquisition and analysis and
interpretation of the data; and drafting, critical revision, and final approval of the article. Todd A. McLoda, PhD, ATC, contributed to
conception and design, analysis and interpretation of the data, and critical revision and final approval of the article. Steven T. McCaw,
PhD, contributed to conception and design; analysis and interpretation of the data; and drafting, critical revision, and final approval of the
Address correspondence to Claudia K. Curtis, MS, ATC, Orthopaedic Associates of Wisconsin, 1111 Delafield Street, Suite 120,
Waukesha, WI 53188. Address e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journal of Athletic Training233