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Journal Article: Foot strike patterns of recreational and sub-elite runners in a long-distance road race

Posted on November 19 2011

Journal of Sports Sciences Just a quick post to announce that my first academic paper on running-related research has been published in the Journal of Sports Sciences – the title is “Foot strike patterns of recreational and sub-elite runners in a long-distance road race.” The research in this paper is based on film that seven of my former undergraduate students and I collected back in the Fall of 2009 at the Manchester City Marathon in Manchester, NH.

My co-authors are all alumni of Saint Anselm College, and to give them due credit, their names are Erin Higgins, Justin Kaminski, Tamara Decker, Janine Preble, Daniela Lyons, Kevin McIntyre & Adam Normile. The paper required an immense amount of often tedious frame-by-frame analysis of well over 1000 video clips or running foot-strikes, and I credit them all with the demonstrating the perseverance required to stick it out. I know what they went through as I also analyzed every single one of these clips myself! I hope this paper adds at least some useful information to the body of scientific knowledge on running form and biomechanics.

Below is the abstract, and I will probably follow up at some point with some additional thoughts. I cannot post the PDF for 12 months due to copyright restrictions, but can share via email if you are interested.


Although the biomechanical properties of the various types of running foot strike (rearfoot, midfoot, and forefoot) have been studied extensively in the laboratory, only a few studies have attempted to quantify the frequency of running foot strike variants among runners in competitive road races. We classified the left and right foot strike patterns of 936 distance runners, most of whom would be considered of recreational or sub-elite ability, at the 10 km point of a half-marathon/marathon road race. We classified 88.9% of runners at the 10 km point as rearfoot strikers, 3.4% as midfoot strikers, 1.8% as forefoot strikers, and 5.9% of runners exhibited discrete foot strike asymmetry. Rearfoot striking was more common among our sample of mostly recreational distance runners than has been previously reported for samples of faster runners. We also compared foot strike patterns of 286 individual marathon runners between the 10 km and 32 km race locations and observed increased frequency of rearfoot striking at 32 km. A large percentage of runners switched from midfoot and forefoot foot strikes at 10 km to rearfoot strikes at 32 km. The frequency of discrete foot strike asymmetry declined from the 10 km to the 32 km location. Among marathon runners, we found no significant relationship between foot strike patterns and race times.

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