FOOT FUNCTION AND RUNNING

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

HUMAN LOCOMOTION

  • 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.
pendulum.jpg
Running.jpg
locomotion-curves.jpg

References

Perry J. Gait Analysis: Normal and Pathological Function. SLACK inc (1992)

Kuo AD et al. Energetic consequences of walking like an Inverted pendulum: step-to-step transitions. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews (2005)

Doke J et al. Mechanics and energetics of swinging the human leg. The Journal of Experimental Biology (2005)

Hughes J et al. The Importance of the toes in walking. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (1990)

Lambrinudi C. Use and abuse of toes. Post Graduate Medical Journal (1932)

Bowerman WJ. Jogging. Corgi (1967)

Cavanagh PR . Ed. The Biomechanics of Distance Running. Human Kinetics (1990)

Bosch F, Klomp R. Running: Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology Applied in Practice. Elsevier (2005)

De Almeida MO et al. Is the rearfoot pattern the most frequent foot strike pattern among recreational shod distance runners? Physical Therapy in Sport (2015)

Pink M et al. Lower extremity range of motion in the recreational sport runner. The American Journal of Sports Medicine (1994)

Mei Q et al. Investigating biomechanical function of toes through external manipulation integrating analysis. Acta of Bioengineering and Biomechanics (2015)

Cavanagh PR et al. Pressure Distribution under symptom-free feet during barefoot standing. Foot & Ankle (1987)

Drewes LK et al. Dorsiflexion deficit during jogging with chronic ankle instability. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2008)

Jahss MH et al. Investigations into the Fat Pads of the Sole of the Foot: Anatomy and Histology. Foot & Ankle (1992)

Jahss MH et al. Investigations into the Fat Pads of the Sole of the Foot: Heel Pressure Studies. Foot & Ankle (1992)

Ozdemir H et al. Effects of changes in heel fat pad thickness and elasticity on heel pain. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association (2004)

Mann RA, Hagy JL. Biomechanics of walking, running and sprinting. The American Journal of Sports Medicine (1980)

Mann RA, Hagy JL. The Function of the toes in walking, jogging and running. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research (1979)

Novachek TF. The biomechanics of running. Gait and Posture (1998)

Kyrolainen H et al. Changes in muscle activity with increasing running speed. Journal of Sports Sciences (2005)

Nummela AT, Keranen T. Factors Related to top running speed and economy. International Journal of Sports Medicine (2007)

Dorn TW et al. Muscular strategy shift in human running: dependence of running speed on hip and ankle muscle performance. The Journal of Experimental Biology (2012)

Bushnell T, Hunter I. Differences in technique between sprinters and distance runners at equal and maximal speeds. Sports Biomechanics (2007)

Korhonen MT et al. Age-related differences in 100m sprint performance in male and female mas- ter runners. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (2003)

Wilkinson et al Feet and footwear: applying biological design and mismatch theory to running injuries. International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine (2018)