The Influence of Foot-Strike Technique on the Neuromechanical Function of the Foot

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Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of foot-strike technique on longitudinal arch mechanics and intrinsic foot muscle function during running.

Methods

Thirteen healthy participants ran barefoot on a force-instrumented treadmill at 2.8 ms−1 with a forefoot (FFS) and rearfoot (RFS; habitual) running technique, whereas kinetic, kinematic, and electromyographic data from the intrinsic foot muscles were collected simultaneously. The longitudinal arch was modeled as a single “midfoot” joint representing motion of the rearfoot (calcaneus) relative to the forefoot (metatarsals). An inverse dynamic analysis was performed to estimate joint moments generated about the midfoot, as well as mechanical work and power.

Results

The midfoot was more plantar flexed (higher arch) at foot contact when running with a forefoot running technique (RFS 0.2o ± 1.8o vs FFS 6.9o ± 3.0°, effect size (ES) = 2.7); however, there was no difference in peak midfoot dorsiflexion in stance (RFS −11.6o ± 3.0o vs FFS −11.4o ± 3.4°, ES = 0.63). When running with a forefoot technique, participants generated greater moments about the midfoot (27% increase, ES = 1.1) and performed more negative work (240% increase, ES = 2.2) and positive work (42% increase, ES = 1.1) about the midfoot. Average stance-phase muscle activation was greater for flexor digitorum brevis (20% increase, ES = 0.56) and abductor hallucis (17% increase, ES = 0.63) when running with a forefoot technique.

Conclusions

Forefoot running increases loading about the longitudinal arch and also increases the mechanical work performed by the intrinsic foot muscles. These findings have substantial implications in terms of injury prevention and management for runners who transition from a rearfoot to a forefoot running technique.

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