Do footfall patterns in forefoot runners change over an exhaustive run?

Carl Jewell, Katherine A Boyer, Joseph Hamill
Journal of Sports Sciences 2017, 35 (1): 74-80
The purpose of this study was to investigate possible footfall pattern changes in habitual forefoot runners over a prolonged, exhaustive run. A prolonged run was performed to exhaustion in 14 habitual forefoot runners. Vertical ground reaction forces (VGRFs) and kinematics were collected at the beginning and end of the run. Ankle plantar flexor torque and triceps surae electromyographic activity were measured during pre- and post-run isometric contractions. By run's end, there was an increase in VGRF loading rate and impact peak magnitude, greater dorsiflexion at foot contact and greater knee flexion angle throughout stance. Ankle plantar flexor torque decreased significantly from pre- to post-run tests. This was accompanied by a decrease in the integrated electromyographic activity (iEMG) output for the lateral and medial gastrocnemius. There were significant changes in landing mechanics for forefoot runners that indicate a transition towards more midfoot footfall patterns. A contributing factor may be ankle plantar flexor muscle fatigue that, at touchdown, is exposed to exaggerated eccentric loading. These findings suggest that a forefoot running pattern may become difficult to maintain in longer endurance events, and thus runners should pay attention to this in training to improve performance and mitigate potential injury.

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