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Choosing trainers

  • Key Stage 3
  • GCSE
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Data work
Topic: Pressure & moments

Scottish scientists asked the question Are expensive trainers worth the money? This activity presents some results of their just-published research, and gets students to analyse them.

After doing a ranking exercise, students consider what makes a trainer comfortable, and learn that good cushioning reduces pressure. They then measure the pressure their own feet exert before analysing and evaluating data to compare the cushioning effects of cheap and expensive trainers: are expensive trainers worth the money?

11-16 How Science Works:
Communication skills
3c Present information, develop an argument and draw a conclusion, using scientific, technical and mathematical language, conventions and symbols and ICT tools.

Published: 31st October 2007
Reviews & Comments: 10

Learning objectives

Students will learn:
• that pressure can vary depending on the area to which force is applied
• to analyse and interpret data
• to draw conclusions from data

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

11 – 14 (KS3)
QCA Unit 9L Pressure and moments
• the effect of a force depends on the area to which it is applied
• using the quantitative relationship between force, area and pressure
• practical applications of this relationship

GCSE specifications
AQA – Core
How science works
10.7 Using data to draw conclusions

21st Century Science – core
Ideas about science
1 Data and their limitations

Running the activity

Page 1 discusses what makes a good trainer, or rather what makes it a desirable item. Students rank 9 factors to consider when buying new trainers.
Page 2 sets the context and tasks for the rest of the activity.
Page 3 explains pressure and gives the relationship between force and the area to which it is applied. Students work out the pressure exerted by their feet in a simple class activity that involves measuring the area of the foot and their weight. This activity may be best done in groups with willing volunteers to avoid problems with students sensitive about their weight.
Pages 4 and 5 is the data analysis activity. Data from a recent study looking at whether expensive trainers are worth the money is presented in 4 bar charts. Students study the data to answer the question 'Do expensive trainers cushion best?' The data is actually rather inconclusive – the cushioning from brand to brand, within brands and in different parts of left and right feet varies hugely. The researchers themselves concluded that there is no simple link between cost and cushioning.
1. The data presented here has been adapted from the Venn diagrams produced by the researchers. The relative pressures given are very approximate.
2. The article Do you get value for money when you buy an expensive pair of running shoes? appears in the British Journal for Sports Medicine, published online 11 October 2007. It is available to subscribers or on payment of a fee.]

News links

The Times Online
They may cramp your style, but cheap trainers are fine for feet - article describing the research
Choosing the right trainers
Feet for Life
More advice on choosing a sports shoe

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

year 8 data and evidence applied to every day

Mar 21st, 2013

3 Star

my most able pupils found the task a challenge when looking at the data but all found the task motivating and interesting. (yr 8)

Reviewer: kathryn bye

Choosing trainers review

Aug 18th, 2011

5 Star

This was brilliant and got everyone talking and even my most troublesome pupil was on task and engaged.

Reviewer: Karen Duxbury-Watkinson

Choosing trainers

Mar 18th, 2011

4 Star

Dear Author of this activity.
This is a well designed activity and fun to do in the class.

on page 3 there is the calculations for pressure.

To convert the area of the foot from cm2 to m2 we need to divide by 10000 the sheet say 1000.

Also could you please clarify why we multiply by 0.5 when the note says "When you run the pressure is much bigger"

Do we calculate the pressure using the area of the ball of your foot? - for running?

Reviewer: Alpana Kelkar

Choosing Trainers

Jun 22nd, 2010

4 Star

Did a slightly altered version of this activity with a low ability Year 10 group. They were all engaged - they loved the group discussion as to what was most important when selecting a pair of trainers! At first they struggled to understand why we were measuring pressure rather than mass, but then they got on with the activity. I challenged them to design a pair of trainers and highlight the design features for a bit of cross curricula box ticking!

Reviewer: Jo Christopher

Choosing trainers review

Feb 21st, 2010

5 Star

This activity worked well with several groups of differing ability. The activity is easily extended to look at the pressure put on your feet while wearing different types of shoes. There is also the possibility of getting students to design a trainer themselves thinking about what materials they would use and why.

Reviewer: Rebecca Daw

Forensic Science

Sep 24th, 2008

5 Star

This activity was well organised and the images were easy to read when printed for the students. The students (aged 17-18) enjoyed working out the force and pressure applied to different areas of their feet. The students did not realise they were doing mathematical calculations as the activity was more interesting. All students managed the calculations and could answer all the questions by reading the graphs. A very good activity enjoyed by all. No additional material was required for activity to work effectively.

Reviewer: Jennifer Innes

Choosing trainers

Jun 17th, 2008

4 Star

An excellent acivity, very differentiated by outcome. My top set group got well into it.

Reviewer: Fred Hampson

Choosing trainers review

Jun 4th, 2008

5 Star

Have not tried yet, just browsing!

Reviewer: John Saddler


Mar 7th, 2008

5 Star

Is the conversion factor in the 'Finding Your Pressure' activity wrong? 1 square metre is 10,000 square centimetres so the area found in step B should be divided by 10,000, not 1,000.
Pedantic Bob strikes again!

Reviewer: Bob Kerrigan

Think 30

Jan 11th, 2008

5 Star

A great activity for getting a particularly scary looking equation across to a difficult yr 11 group. They really engaged with it although I ended up with some factually correct but gruesome powerpoints.

Reviewer: Tracy Hill