Open Access Thesis
Master of Science (M.S.)
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There has been much debate on the benefits of a forefoot versus rearfoot strike pattern in distance running in terms of performance and injury prevalence. Shock attenuation occurs more prominently in soft tissues at impact in forefoot runners compared to the passive skeletal loading in rearfoot runners. Recent studies indicate that a forefoot strike pattern may not be maintainable over long distance efforts. Therefore, this study tested the hypothesis that habitual forefoot runners could not maintain their strike pattern throughout a prolonged, intensive run.
Fourteen forefoot runners ran to voluntary exhaustion on an instrumented force treadmill (average run duration: 15.4±2.2 minutes). Kinematic and kinetic data were sampled each minute at 200Hz and 1000Hz, respectively. Ankle plantar-flexor torque was measured during pre- and post-run isometric contractions, during which electromyographic activity was measured in the soleus, lateral, and medial gastrocnemius.
Loading rate (49.95±14.83 to 57.40±22.53 BW*s-1, p=0.0311) and impact peak (1.35±0.43 to 1.50±0.51, p=0.0207) increased significantly throughout the run. Both peak knee flexion (-33.93±3.67º to -36.21±3.48º, p=<0.0000) and sagittal ankle angle at touchdown (-11.83±5.33º to -9.33±6.29º, p =0.0202) increased significantly. Ankle torque decreased significantly from pre- to post-run (120.57±33.57 to 110.76±32.91 Nm, p = 0.0154). This was accompanied by a decrease in medial and lateral gastrocnemius integrated electromyographic activity (iEMG) (p=0.0387 and 0.0186, respectively).
The results indicated that there were significant changes in landing mechanics in the habitual forefoot runners with increased levels of exertion, as they shifted towards strike patterns more similar to rearfoot runners throughout the run. These changes are in line with metabolic findings of other studies. There is increased eccentric loading of the ankle plantar-flexor muscles at touchdown in forefoot runners that may contribute to a decreased torque output by the end of the run. The decline in iEMG may indicate altered central drive of the system and a decline in the impact attenuation ability of the triceps surae, leading to the changes exhibited up the kinematic chain. These findings suggest that while forefoot strike patterns are good for speed, the onset of fatigue may affect the ability to maintain this pattern during a prolonged, intensive effort.
Jewell, Carl W., "Does Footfall Pattern in Forefoot Runners Change Over a Prolonged Run?" (2014). Masters Theses. 135.