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The Effect of Foot Strike Pattern on Achilles Tendon Load During Running


In this study we compared Achilles tendon loading parameters during barefoot running among females with different foot strike patterns using open-source computer muscle modeling software to provide dynamic simulations of running. Muscle forces of the gastrocnemius and soleus were estimated from experimental data collected in a motion capture laboratory during barefoot running for 11 runners utilizing a rearfoot strike (RFS) and 8 runners utilizing a non-RFS (NRFS) pattern. Our results show that peak Achilles tendon force occurred earlier in stance phase (p = 0.007), which contributed to a 15% increase in average Achilles tendon loading rate among participants adopting a NRFS pattern (p = 0.06). Stance time, step length, and the estimated number of steps per mile were similar between groups. However, runners with a NRFS pattern experienced 11% greater Achilles tendon impulse each step (p = 0.05) and nearly significantly greater Achilles tendon impulse per mile run (p = 0.06). This difference equates to an additional 47.7 body weights for each mile run with a NRFS pattern. Runners considering a NRFS pattern may want to account for these novel stressors and adapt training programs accordingly.

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We would like to acknowledge the valuable insight of Kris O’Connor, PhD from the Department of Human Kinetics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Dian Hong, PhD from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse regarding the methods of musculoskeletal modeling with our laboratory data.

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Correspondence to John D. Willson.

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Associate Editor Michael R. Torry oversaw the review of this article.

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Almonroeder, T., Willson, J.D. & Kernozek, T.W. The Effect of Foot Strike Pattern on Achilles Tendon Load During Running. Ann Biomed Eng 41, 1758–1766 (2013).

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  • Muscle force
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Soleus
  • Barefoot