Running is a true ‘spring-like’ gait with the entire kinetic chain of the lower body acting like a spring. At running speeds over 10mph (16km/h) the biomechanical behaviour of the foot and ankle typically changes to a forefoot or midfoot loading pattern in an attempt to utilise the elastic potential of the tendinous structures of the foot and ankle (see diagram).

Adopting a forefoot or midfoot loading pattern places the tissues being loaded under tremendous strain. Injuries to the lower leg and foot are common, particularly if technique is poor and the reactive strength of the lower leg is inadequate.

The key features required in a ‘running shoe’ are:

  • Anatomical toe box (wide, flat and foot-shaped). The toe flexors and extensors and the intrinsic muscles of the foot are active during the entire ground-contact phase in fore/midfoot running, and their ability to function is directly influenced by toe interaction with the ground.

  • Lightweight and Minimal Cushioning. Because of the importance of technique in fore/mid- foot running, a running shoe should be lightweight with minimal cushioning to enhance the reactive strength and spring-like ability of the foot


  • The biomechanics of human locomotion can be explained by the physics of pendulums and springs. Humans have essentially four locomotive strategies available: walking, jogging, running, sprinting.

  • These locomotive strategies become progressively less pendulum like and more spring like as speed and gravitational loading increase and contact time decreases (see diagram).
  • Each locomotive strategy has energetic and biomechanical consequences i.e. metabolic cost and risk of injury.
  • Skillful human movement is characterised by adopting the locomotive strategy for a given speed and terrain that maximises economy while minimising injury risk.
  • Movement strategy selection is influenced by several factors including habit, conditioning and accurate sensory feedback about the external environment.


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