Effects of footwear and stride length on metatarsal strains and failure in running

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Abstract

Background:

The metatarsal bones of the foot are particularly susceptible to stress fracture owing to the high strains they experience during the stance phase of running. Shoe cushioning and stride length reduction represent two potential interventions to decrease metatarsal strain and thus stress fracture risk.

Methods:

Fourteen male recreational runners ran overground at a 5-km pace while motion capture and plantar pressure data were collected during four experimental conditions: traditional shoe at preferred and 90% preferred stride length, and minimalist shoe at preferred and 90% preferred stride length. Combined musculoskeletal – finite element modeling based on motion analysis and computed tomography data were used to quantify metatarsal strains and the probability of failure was determined using stress-life predictions.

Findings:

No significant interactions between footwear and stride length were observed. Running in minimalist shoes increased strains for all metatarsals by 28.7% (SD 6.4%; p < 0.001) and probability of failure for metatarsals 2–4 by 17.3% (SD 14.3%; p ≤ 0.005). Running at 90% preferred stride length decreased strains for metatarsal 4 by 4.2% (SD 2.0%; p ≤ 0.007), and no differences in probability of failure were observed.

Interpretations:

Significant increases in metatarsal strains and the probability of failure were observed for recreational runners acutely transitioning to minimalist shoes. Running with a 10% reduction in stride length did not appear to be a beneficial technique for reducing the risk of metatarsal stress fracture, however the increased number of loading cycles for a given distance was not detrimental either.

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