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Runners needed for La Trobe University foot pain study

Does pounding the pavement several days a week, or standing en pointe for ballet, help strengthen your foot muscles?

La Trobe University Sports and Exercise Medicine Senior Clinical Research Fellow Dr Ebonie Rio is hoping to answer this question in a study into the role activity has on foot muscles, foot function and foot pain.

Through the University’s partnership with The Australian Ballet, Dr Rio is studying the impact of ‘load’ on the feet of ballet dancers, the general population and runners.

This will provide a broad spectrum of different types of loading to the feet, from dancers standing en pointe, to runners pounding the pavement at least twice a week.

“Foot pain is one of the most common presentations to GP clinics and we really don’t know enough about how being active impacts foot muscles and foot function,” she said.

“We will look at whether or not how much people load their feet, impacts the size and the function of their foot muscles, and whether or not it impacts the health of the joints in their feet,” she said.

Dr Rio believes that load doesn’t always equate to foot pain.

She points to a study by The Australian Ballet’s Director of Artistic Health, Dr Sue Mayes AM, into the impact of ballet on hips.

“Part of Sue’s PhD was to show that ballet dancers’ hips were similar to athletes, they were healthy and it wasn’t damaging even though they’re at quite extreme ranges of motion,” Dr Rio said.

“So it’s a similar study for the foot – to say that even though you run a lot or you do a lot of ballet, we would hypothesize to say that’s actually quite good for your feet.”

Gold Cross Wellbeing

While Dr Rio has enough dancers and members of the general population for the study, she is looking for 20 more runners aged between 18 and 70 to sign up by the end of June.

Study participants can either be experiencing any type of foot pain, or be pain-free.

They will undergo an MRI of the foot, and then undertake testing at The Australian Ballet studios.

Participants must run a minimum twice a week, but there’s no minimum or maximum distance.

Dr Rio, who will be part of the Australian Olympic team’s physio crew in Paris, said the results could have implications for people in other sports.

“We hope this will help us understand what influence load has on whether or not a person has foot pain, and how what impact it has on foot function,” she said.

The study has been funded by the Shepherd Foundation.

To join the study, contact Dr Rio at:

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