Researchers and shoemaker Cosyfeet have joined forces to create a new shoe to help older women stay active
University of Exeter researchers have teamed up with shoemaker Cosyfeet on an EPSRC IAA funded project to develop shoes that support healthy ageing.
Dr Sharon Dixon (Biomechanics) and Professor James Brownjohn (Structural Dynamics) used the VSimulators facility at the University of Exeter to study “lower limb joint loading” in active older adults engaged in sports such as tennis, badminton, and netball.
By sharing this data with Cosyfeet, they were able to create bespoke shoes for active older women. The Viva and Vamos shoes now make up the Sport Active collection – the first Cosyfeet sports footwear range that has been specially designed and thoroughly tested for the more mature wearer.
Led by Dr Sharon Dixon, the research aims to understand lower limb joint loading in older adults during sports participation. Previously, such research could only occur in uncontrolled outdoor environments or gait analysis labs, offering limited results. However, the VSimulator facilities create a unique opportunity to obtain detailed and accurate data on the loading experienced by players performing complete sports movements.
Shoe manufacturer Cosyfeet focuses on providing supportive and comfortable footwear for people with swollen feet, most often the elderly. Many of their customers are still quite active, and all would benefit from an active or more active lifestyle. Previously, Cosyfeet didn’t offer sports footwear in their range due to a lack of data. The support from the University of Exeter aimed to enable Cosyfeet customers to participate in gentle sports, like walking, running or tennis, giving them the very best support, comfort, and performance in such activities.
What was done to help
This research aimed to investigate how different people, surfaces, and shoes impact lower limbs in active older adults. The data went towards designing a bespoke shoe through the company Cosyfeet.
This pilot study was the first of many research and commercial programmes using the unique capability of Exeter’s VSimulators facility to explore human movement and responses to the environment.
VSimulators is a ‘super force plate’ facility, unique within the UK. It is an 8m x 8m chamber at the Engineering Research Centre at Exeter Science Park containing a custom-designed 3.7m x 3.7m Octopod motion platform delivering movement in six directions. This is topped with nine custom-made AMTI force plates, creating one giant force plate to provide a fully instrumented floor capable of comprehensive data capture and analysis.
Up to nine users can be simultaneously immersed in a virtual environment through VivePro headsets. Motion capture capability enables the collection and compilation of data, including users’ position, the force from the plates, movement measured by accelerometers, and user reactions. This is synchronised frame by frame and presented to the research team for analysis.
The process with Cosyfeet began with the joint development of an initial prototype. Changes were then made based on feedback and physical tests in the lab and the VSimulator. Women involved in the study were aged 55-70, and their input included physical testing and surveys regarding footwear needs and requirements.
Mechanical testing to assess grip was carried out at the University of Sheffield, and the results show the shoes have good grip in both wet and dry conditions.
The result is a wider shoe with stability and traction characteristics informed by user groups, biomechanical, and mechanical testing. The researchers found that less aggressive lateral stability was required for older compared with young players, likely influenced by a lower joint range of movement.
In Spring 2022, Cosyfeet launched their first Sport Active collection, which combines their craftspeople’s design and shoemaking skills with the knowledge acquired from the laboratory testing conducted by Dr Sharon Dixon.
The Viva and Vamos shoes offer all the necessary stability and cushioning to enhance an active lifestyle and minimise the risk of injury without compromising on the unique footwear characteristics required for extra-wide or vulnerable feet.
Both shoes feature a double density sole for cushioning, with enhanced grip and durability. The flexible upper, constructed from a breathable mesh, stretches to conform to the foot’s shape, with leather sections for increased stability. The upper, lining, and footbed are all 100% breathable to create a healthy environment for the foot. The secure lace fastening adjusts to accommodate swelling.
The Sport Active range can be viewed HERE.
For more information please contact:
For more information on the Cosyfeet research and shoes, please contact Dr Sharon Dixon.
If you would like EPSRC funding for your project, please contact EPSRC IAA Project.