Manipulation of Foot Strike and Footwear Increases Achilles Tendon Loading During Running

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Abstract

Background:

The Achilles tendon is the most common site of tendon overuse injury in humans. Running with a forefoot strike pattern and in minimal shoes is a topic of recent interest, yet evidence is currently limited regarding the combined influence of foot strike and footwear on Achilles tendon loading.

Purpose:

To investigate the influence of both foot strike and footwear on Achilles tendon loading in habitual rearfoot strike runners.

Study Design:

Controlled laboratory study.

Methods:

Synchronized kinematic and force data were collected from 22 habitual rearfoot strikers (11 male), who habitually ran in nonminimal running shoes, during overground running at 3.6 m·s-1. Participants ran in 3 different footwear conditions (standard running shoe, minimal running shoe, and barefoot) with both a rearfoot strike (RFS) and an imposed forefoot strike (FFS) in each footwear condition. Achilles tendon loading was estimated by use of inverse dynamics, where the Achilles tendon moment arm was determined with a regression equation. A 2-way, repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to compare conditions.

Results:

Achilles tendon impulse was greater when subjects ran with an FFS rather than an RFS in minimal shoes. Achilles tendon loading rates were higher when subjects ran either in minimal shoes or barefoot than in standard shoes, regardless of foot strike.

Conclusion:

In runners who habitually rearfoot strike in standard running shoes, running in minimal shoes or barefoot increased the rate of tendon loading, and running with a forefoot strike in minimal shoes increased the magnitude of tendon loading.

Clinical Relevance:

Transitioning to these running conditions may increase the risk of tendinopathy.

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