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Optimised Sports Footwear Design Characteristics for Maintenance of Healthy Activity in Older Adult Populations. Sport & Health Science, PhD Studentship (Funded)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, May 19, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants. The studentship provides funding for up to 42 months (3.5 years).

Ten generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, five offered by the University of Exeter and five by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Find out more about the PhD studentships

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of: Physical Activity and Nutrition; Healthy Ageing; and Environmental Sustainability.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 19 May 2019 (BST), with interviews taking place week commencing 8 July 2019. The start date will be January 2020.

Please note that of the seven Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to five studentships will be awarded to Exeter based students.


Exeter Academic Lead: Dr Sharon Dixon, Associate Professor in Biomechanics, Biomechanics Research Team, Human Movement Science, Sport and Health Sciences,

Queensland Academic Lead: Dr Anna Hatton, Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy, Centre for Neurorehabilitation, Ageing and Balance Research, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Project Description:

Increased leisure time and a greater awareness of the associated health benefits of exercise have led to unprecedented growth in the number of older adults performing regular exercise (Public Health England, 2015). Novel initiatives to encourage activity in later life, such as Senior’s playgrounds (Sales, 2017), social walking groups (Grant, 2017), and the UK’s Walking Football Association for the over 50s http://(, are set to escalate older adults’ exercise participation. However, many older adults are forced to reduce or cease activity due to injury.

Suboptimal footwear is one critical factor that can increase the risk of injury, e.g. transmitting excessively high loads through the body, or exacerbating symptoms associated with age-related co-morbidities (e.g. osteoarthritis). A further area associated with injury risk, is an individual’s selection of
suitable footwear, and consideration of how shoe design features (e.g. traction, cushioning) interact with a surface to prevent slips/trips, or influence the user experience – particularly when performing sports on synthetic surfaces (e.g. tennis courts).

Current footwear design recommendations for older adults predominantly focus on the safety needs of sedentary individuals with a history of falls, balance and mobility problems (Menz, 2017). The footwear requirements of exercising older adults, for a range of synthetic playing surfaces, has not yet been investigated.

This PhD builds on existing work undertaken by the two institutions to: develop an understanding of footwear, health and comfort requirements and; identify optimal shoe design features, for exercising older adults.

A systematic review will identify and synthesise existing research that has evaluated footwear selection/preferences in older adults, and design features to reduce injury risk.

A qualitative study using focus groups and questionnaires will develop understanding of the footwear/health requirements of active older adults, and experiences of key stakeholders (e.g. podiatrists, footwear industry).
Three laboratory-based, observational studies will identify optimal shoe design features and develop test footwear for exercising older adults, including:
i. Collection of biomechanical data from older exercising adults, for a range of sports movements on selected synthetic surfaces to provide boundary conditions to inform mechanical testing;

ii. Use of mechanical testing to systematically manipulate shoe design characteristics to develop an understanding of the influence of these on cushioning and traction;

iii. Validation of mechanical results in older exercising adults using biomechanical data, alongside comfort evaluation of the test footwear.

This interdisciplinary project will combine biomechanical and clinical expertise of the international team, to help increase older adults’ ongoing participation in exercise.

Funding Notes

Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £15,000 are available over the 3.5 year studentship

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