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1.  Lower Extremity Biomechanical Relationships with Different Speeds in Traditional, Minimalist, and Barefoot Footwear 
Minimalist running footwear has grown increasingly popular. Prior studies that have compared lower extremity biomechanics in minimalist running to traditional running conditions are largely limited to a single running velocity. This study compares the effects of running at various speeds on foot strike pattern, stride length, knee angles and ankle angles in traditional, barefoot, and minimalist running conditions. Twenty-six recreational runners (19-46 years of age) ran on a treadmill at a range of speeds (2.5-4.0 m·sec-1). Subjects ran with four different footwear conditions: personal, standard, and minimalist shoes and barefoot. 3D coordinates from video data were collected. The relationships between speed, knee and ankle angles at foot strike and toe-off, relative step length, and footwear conditions were evaluated by ANCOVA, with speed as the co-variate. Distribution of non-rearfoot strike was compared across shod conditions with paired t-tests. Non-rearfoot strike distribution was not significantly affected by speed, but was different between shod conditions (p < 0.05). Footwear condition and speed significantly affected ankle angle at touchdown, independent of one another (F [3,71] = 10.28, p < 0.001), with barefoot and minimalist running exhibiting greater plantarflexion at foot strike. When controlling for foot strike style, barefoot and minimalist runners exhibited greater plantarflexion than other conditions (p < 0.05). Ankle angle at lift-off and relative step length exhibited a significant interaction between speed and shod condition. Knee angles had a significant relationship with speed, but not with footwear. There is a clear influence of footwear, but not speed, on foot strike pattern. Additionally, speed and footwear predict ankle angles (greater plantarflexion at foot strike) and may have implications for minimalist runners and their risk of injury. Long-term studies utilizing various speeds and habituation times are needed.
Key pointsFoot strike style does not change with speed, but does change with shod condition, with minimalist shoes exhibiting an intermediate distribution of forefoot strikes between barefoot and traditional shoes.Plantarflexion at touchdown does change with speed and with shoe type, with barefoot and minimalist shoes exhibiting a greater plantarflexion angle than traditional running shoes.Knee angles change with speed in all shod conditions, but knee flexion at touchdown is not different between shod conditions.Relative step length changes with speed and shod condition, but there is an interaction between these variables such that step length increases more quickly in traditional shoes as speed increases.
PMCID: PMC4424455  PMID: 25983575
Running; biomechanics; gait analysis; motion analysis/kinesiology; minimalist; shoe wear
2.  Effect of Acute Alterations in Foot Strike Patterns during Running on Sagittal Plane Lower Limb Kinematics and Kinetics 
The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of foot strike patterns and converted foot strike patterns on lower limb kinematics and kinetics at the hip, knee, and ankle during a shod condition. Subjects were videotaped with a high speed camera while running a 5km at self-selected pace on a treadmill to determine natural foot strike pattern on day one. Preferred forefoot group (PFFG, n = 10) and preferred rear foot group (PRFG, n = 11) subjects were identified through slow motion video playback (n = 21, age = 22.8±2.2 years, mass = 73.1±14.5 kg, height 1.75 ± 0.10 m). On day two, subjects performed five overground run trials in both their natural and unnatural strike patterns while motion and force data were collected. Data were collected over two days so that foot strike videos could be analyzed for group placement purposes. Several 2 (Foot Strike Pattern –forefoot strike [FFS], rearfoot strike [RFS]) x 2 (Group – PFFG, PRFG) mixed model ANOVAs (p < 0.05) were run on speed, active peak vertical ground reaction force (VGRF), peak early stance and mid stance sagittal ankle moments, sagittal plane hip and knee moments, ankle dorsiflexion ROM, and sagittal plane hip and knee ROM. There were no significant interactions or between group differences for any of the measured variables. Within subject effects demonstrated that the RFS condition had significantly lower (VGRF) (RFS = 2.58 ± .21 BW, FFS = 2.71 ± 0.23 BW), dorsiflexion moment (RFS = -2.6 1± 0.61 Nm·kg-1, FFS = -3.09 ± 0.32 Nm·kg-1), and dorsiflexion range of motion (RFS = 17.63 ± 3.76°, FFS = 22.10 ± 5.08°). There was also a significantly higher peak plantarflexion moment (RFS = 0.23 ± 0.11 Nm·kg-1, FFS = 0.01 ± 0.01 Nm·kg-1), peak knee moment (RFS = 2.61 ± 0.54 Nm·kg-1, FFS = 2.39 ± 0.61 Nm·kg-1), knee ROM (RFS = 31.72 ± 2.79°, FFS = 29.58 ± 2.97°), and hip ROM (RFS = 42.72 ± 4.03°, FFS = 41.38 ± 3.32°) as compared with the FFS condition. This research suggests that acute changes in foot strike patterns during shod running can create alterations in certain lower limb kinematic and kinetic measures that are not dependent on the preferred foot strike pattern of the individual. This research also challenges the contention that the impact transient spike in the vertical ground reaction force curve is only present during a rear foot strike type of running gait.
Key pointsFootstrike pattern changes should be individually considered and implemented based on individual histories/abilitiesForefoot strike patterns increase external dorsiflexion momentsRearfoot strike patterns increase external knee flexion momentsRecreational shod runners are able to mimic habitual mechanics of different foot strike patterns
PMCID: PMC4306776  PMID: 25729311
Forefoot; rearfoot; joint moments; range of motion
3.  Effect of children's shoes on gait: a systematic review and meta-analysis 
The effect of footwear on the gait of children is poorly understood. This systematic review synthesises the evidence of the biomechanical effects of shoes on children during walking and running.
Study inclusion criteria were: barefoot and shod conditions; healthy children aged ≤ 16 years; sample size of n > 1. Novelty footwear was excluded. Studies were located by online database-searching, hand-searching and contact with experts. Two authors selected studies and assessed study methodology using the Quality Index. Meta-analysis of continuous variables for homogeneous studies was undertaken using the inverse variance approach. Significance level was set at P < 0.05. Heterogeneity was measured by I2. Where I2 > 25%, a random-effects model analysis was used and where I2 < 25%, a fixed-effects model was used.
Eleven studies were included. Sample size ranged from 4-898. Median Quality Index was 20/32 (range 11-27). Five studies randomised shoe order, six studies standardised footwear. Shod walking increased: velocity, step length, step time, base of support, double-support time, stance time, time to toe-off, sagittal tibia-rearfoot range of motion (ROM), sagittal tibia-foot ROM, ankle max-plantarflexion, Ankle ROM, foot lift to max-plantarflexion, 'subtalar' rotation ROM, knee sagittal ROM and tibialis anterior activity. Shod walking decreased: cadence, single-support time, ankle max-dorsiflexion, ankle at foot-lift, hallux ROM, arch length change, foot torsion, forefoot supination, forefoot width and midfoot ROM in all planes. Shod running decreased: long axis maximum tibial-acceleration, shock-wave transmission as a ratio of maximum tibial-acceleration, ankle plantarflexion at foot strike, knee angular velocity and tibial swing velocity. No variables increased during shod running.
Shoes affect the gait of children. With shoes, children walk faster by taking longer steps with greater ankle and knee motion and increased tibialis anterior activity. Shoes reduce foot motion and increase the support phases of the gait cycle. During running, shoes reduce swing phase leg speed, attenuate some shock and encourage a rearfoot strike pattern. The long-term effect of these changes on growth and development are currently unknown. The impact of footwear on gait should be considered when assessing the paediatric patient and evaluating the effect of shoe or in-shoe interventions.
PMCID: PMC3031211  PMID: 21244647
4.  Modelling of Muscle Force Distributions During Barefoot and Shod Running 
Research interest in barefoot running has expanded considerably in recent years, based around the notion that running without shoes is associated with a reduced incidence of chronic injuries. The aim of the current investigation was to examine the differences in the forces produced by different skeletal muscles during barefoot and shod running. Fifteen male participants ran at 4.0 m·s-1 (± 5%). Kinematics were measured using an eight camera motion analysis system alongside ground reaction force parameters. Differences in sagittal plane kinematics and muscle forces between footwear conditions were examined using repeated measures or Freidman’s ANOVA. The kinematic analysis showed that the shod condition was associated with significantly more hip flexion, whilst barefoot running was linked with significantly more flexion at the knee and plantarflexion at the ankle. The examination of muscle kinetics indicated that peak forces from Rectus femoris, Vastus medialis, Vastus lateralis, Tibialis anterior were significantly larger in the shod condition whereas Gastrocnemius forces were significantly larger during barefoot running. These observations provide further insight into the mechanical alterations that runners make when running without shoes. Such findings may also deliver important information to runners regarding their susceptibility to chronic injuries in different footwear conditions.
PMCID: PMC4633245  PMID: 26557186
Barefoot; running; muscle forces; kinematics
5.  Athletic Footwear, Leg Stiffness, and Running Kinematics 
Journal of Athletic Training  2006;41(4):387-392.
Context: The leg acts as a linear spring during running and hopping and adapts to the stiffness of the surface, maintaining constant total stiffness of the leg-surface system. Introducing a substance (eg, footwear) may affect the stiffness of the leg in response to changes in surface stiffness.
Objective: To determine if the type of athletic footwear affects the regulation of leg stiffness in dynamic activities.
Design: Repeated-measures design.
Setting: Motion analysis laboratory.
Patients or Other Participants: Nine healthy adults (age = 28 ± 6.8 years, mass = 71.6 ± 12.9 kg) free from lower extremity injuries.
Intervention(s): Subjects hopped at 2.2 Hz on a forceplate under 3 footwear conditions (barefoot, low-cost footwear, high-cost footwear). Subjects ran on a treadmill at 2 speeds (2.23 m/s, 3.58 m/s) under the same footwear conditions.
Main Outcome Measure(s): Limb stiffness was calculated from forceplate data. Kinematic data (knee and ankle angles at initial contact and peak joint excursion after contact) were collected during running. We calculated 1-way repeated-measures (stiffness) and 2-way (speed by footwear) repeated-measures analyses of variance (running kinematics) to test the dependent variables.
Results: A significant increase in leg stiffness from the barefoot to the “cushioned” shoe condition was noted during hopping. When running shod, runners landed in more dorsiflexion but had less ankle motion than when running barefoot. No differences were seen between the types of shoes. The primary kinematic difference was identified as running speed increased: runners landed in more knee flexion. At the ankle, barefoot runners increased ankle motion to a significantly greater extent than did shod runners as speed increased.
Conclusions: Footwear influences the maintenance of stiffness in the lower extremity during hopping and joint excursion at the ankle in running. Differences in cushioning properties of the shoes tested did not appear to be significant.
PMCID: PMC1748411  PMID: 17273463
shoes; gait; hopping task
6.  Acute Differences in Foot Strike and Spatiotemporal Variables for Shod, Barefoot or Minimalist Male Runners 
This study compared stride length, stride frequency, contact time, flight time and foot-strike patterns (FSP) when running barefoot, and in minimalist and conventional running shoes. Habitually shod male athletes (n = 14; age 25 ± 6 yr; competitive running experience 8 ± 3 yr) completed a randomised order of 6 by 4-min treadmill runs at velocities (V1 and V2) equivalent to 70 and 85% of best 5-km race time, in the three conditions. Synchronous recording of 3-D joint kinematics and ground reaction force data examined spatiotemporal variables and FSP. Most participants adopted a mid-foot strike pattern, regardless of condition. Heel-toe latency was less at V2 than V1 (-6 ± 20 vs. -1 ± 13 ms, p < 0.05), which indicated a velocity related shift towards a more FFS pattern. Stride duration and flight time, when shod and in minimalist footwear, were greater than barefoot (713 ± 48 and 701 ± 49 vs. 679 ± 56 ms, p < 0.001; and 502 ± 45 and 503 ± 41 vs. 488 ±4 9 ms, p < 0.05, respectively). Contact time was significantly longer when running shod than barefoot or in minimalist footwear (211±30 vs. 191 ± 29 ms and 198 ± 33 ms, p < 0.001). When running barefoot, stride frequency was significantly higher (p < 0.001) than in conventional and minimalist footwear (89 ± 7 vs. 85 ± 6 and 86 ± 6 strides·min-1). In conclusion, differences in spatiotemporal variables occurred within a single running session, irrespective of barefoot running experience, and, without a detectable change in FSP.
Key pointsDifferences in spatiotemporal variables occurred within a single running session, without a change in foot strike pattern.Stride duration and flight time were greater when shod and in minimalist footwear than when barefoot.Stride frequency when barefoot was higher than when shod or in minimalist footwear.Contact time when shod was longer than when barefoot or in minimalist footwear.Spatiotemporal variables when running in minimalist footwear more closely resemble shod than barefoot running.
PMCID: PMC3990880  PMID: 24790480
Flight time; contact time; foot-strike pattern
7.  A Kinematic Method for Footstrike Pattern Detection in Barefoot and Shod Runners 
Gait & posture  2011;35(2):298-300.
Footstrike patterns during running can be classified discretely into a rearfoot strike, midfoot strike and forefoot strike by visual observation. However, the footstrike pattern can also be classified on a continuum, ranging from 0–100% (extreme rearfoot to extreme forefoot) using the strike index, a measure requiring force plate data. When force data are not available, an alternative method to quantify the strike pattern must be used. The purpose of this paper was to quantify the continuum of foot strike patterns using an easily attainable kinematic measure, and compare it to the strike index measure. Force and kinematic data from twenty subjects were collected as they ran across an embedded force plate. Strike index and the footstrike angle were identified for the four running conditions of rearfoot strike, midfoot strike and forefoot strike, as well as barefoot. The footstrike angle was calculated as the angle of the foot with respect to the ground in the sagittal plane. Results indicated that the footstrike angle was significantly correlated with strike index. The linear regression model suggested that strike index can be accurately estimated, in both barefoot and shod conditions, in the absence of force data.
PMCID: PMC3278526  PMID: 22075193
8.  The Role of Arch Compression and Metatarsophalangeal Joint Dynamics in Modulating Plantar Fascia Strain in Running 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(4):e0152602.
Elastic energy returned from passive-elastic structures of the lower limb is fundamental in lowering the mechanical demand on muscles during running. The purpose of this study was to investigate the two length-modulating mechanisms of the plantar fascia, namely medial longitudinal arch compression and metatarsophalangeal joint (MPJ) excursion, and to determine how these mechanisms modulate strain, and thus elastic energy storage/return of the plantar fascia during running. Eighteen runners (9 forefoot and 9 rearfoot strike) performed three treadmill running trials; unrestricted shod, shod with restricted arch compression (via an orthotic-style insert), and barefoot. Three-dimensional motion capture and ground reaction force data were used to calculate lower limb kinematics and kinetics including MPJ angles, moments, powers and work. Estimates of plantar fascia strain due to arch compression and MPJ excursion were derived using a geometric model of the arch and a subject-specific musculoskeletal model of the plantar fascia, respectively. The plantar fascia exhibited a typical elastic stretch-shortening cycle with the majority of strain generated via arch compression. This strategy was similar in fore- and rear-foot strike runners. Restricting arch compression, and hence the elastic-spring function of the arch, was not compensated for by an increase in MPJ-derived strain. In the second half of stance the plantar fascia was found to transfer energy between the MPJ (energy absorption) and the arch (energy production during recoil). This previously unreported energy transfer mechanism reduces the strain required by the plantar fascia in generating useful positive mechanical work at the arch during running.
PMCID: PMC4824348  PMID: 27054319
9.  Variation in Foot Strike Patterns among Habitually Barefoot and Shod Runners in Kenya 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0131354.
Runners are often categorized as forefoot, midfoot or rearfoot strikers, but how much and why do individuals vary in foot strike patterns when running on level terrain? This study used general linear mixed-effects models to explore both intra- and inter-individual variations in foot strike pattern among 48 Kalenjin-speaking participants from Kenya who varied in age, sex, body mass, height, running history, and habitual use of footwear. High speed video was used to measure lower extremity kinematics at ground contact in the sagittal plane while participants ran down 13 meter-long tracks with three variables independently controlled: speed, track stiffness, and step frequency. 72% of the habitually barefoot and 32% of the habitually shod participants used multiple strike types, with significantly higher levels of foot strike variation among individuals who ran less frequently and who used lower step frequencies. There was no effect of sex, age, height or weight on foot strike angle, but individuals were more likely to midfoot or forefoot strike when they ran on a stiff surface, had a high preferred stride frequency, were habitually barefoot, and had more experience running. It is hypothesized that strike type variation during running, including a more frequent use of forefoot and midfoot strikes, used to be greater before the introduction of cushioned shoes and paved surfaces.
PMCID: PMC4495985  PMID: 26154285
10.  The Risks and Benefits of Running Barefoot or in Minimalist Shoes 
Sports Health  2014;6(6):475-480.
The popularity of running barefoot or in minimalist shoes has recently increased because of claims of injury prevention, enhanced running efficiency, and improved performance compared with running in shoes. Potential risks and benefits of running barefoot or in minimalist shoes have yet to be clearly defined.
To determine the methodological quality and level of evidence pertaining to the risks and benefits of running barefoot or in minimalist shoes.
Data Sources:
In September 2013, a comprehensive search of the Ovid MEDLINE, SPORTDiscus, and CINAHL databases was performed by 2 independent reviewers.
Study Selection:
Included articles were obtained from peer-reviewed journals in the English language with no limit for year of publication. Final inclusion criteria required at least 1 of the following outcome variables: pain, injury rate, running economy, joint forces, running velocity, electromyography, muscle performance, or edema.
Study Design:
Systematic review.
Level of Evidence:
Level 3.
Data Extraction:
Two reviewers appraised each article using the Downs and Black checklist and appraised each for level of evidence.
Twenty-three articles met the criteria for this review. Of 27 possible points on the Downs and Black checklist, articles scored between 13 and 19 points, indicating a range of evidence from very limited to moderate. Moderate evidence supports the following biomechanical differences when running barefoot versus in shoes: overall less maximum vertical ground reaction forces, less extension moment and power absorption at the knee, less foot and ankle dorsiflexion at ground contact, less ground contact time, shorter stride length, increased stride frequency, and increased knee flexion at ground contact.
Because of lack of high-quality evidence, no definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding specific risks or benefits to running barefoot, shod, or in minimalist shoes.
PMCID: PMC4212355  PMID: 25364479
barefoot; minimalist; running
11.  Footwear Decreases Gait Asymmetry during Running 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(10):e0138631.
Previous research on elderly people has suggested that footwear may improve neuromuscular control of motion. If footwear does in fact improve neuromuscular control, then such an influence might already be present in young, healthy adults. A feature that is often used to assess neuromuscular control of motion is the level of gait asymmetry. The objectives of the study were (a) to develop a comprehensive asymmetry index (CAI) that is capable of detecting gait asymmetry changes caused by external boundary conditions such as footwear, and (b) to use the CAI to investigate whether footwear influences gait asymmetry during running in a healthy, young cohort. Kinematic and kinetic data were collected for both legs of 15 subjects performing five barefoot and five shod over-ground running trials. Thirty continuous gait variables including ground reaction forces and variables of the hip, knee, and ankle joints were computed for each leg. For each individual, the differences between the variables for the right and left leg were calculated. Using this data, a principal component analysis was conducted to obtain the CAI. This study had two main outcomes. First, a sensitivity analysis suggested that the CAI had an improved sensitivity for detecting changes in gait asymmetry caused by external boundary conditions. The CAI may, therefore, have important clinical applications such as monitoring the progress of neuromuscular diseases (e.g. stroke or cerebral palsy). Second, the mean CAI for shod running (131.2 ± 48.5; mean ± standard deviation) was significantly lower (p = 0.041) than the CAI for barefoot running (155.7 ± 39.5). This finding suggests that in healthy, young adults gait asymmetry is reduced when running in shoes compared to running barefoot, which may be a result of improved neuromuscular control caused by changes in the afferent sensory feedback.
PMCID: PMC4619465  PMID: 26488484
12.  Six Weeks Habituation of Simulated Barefoot Running Induces Neuromuscular Adaptations and Changes in Foot Strike Patterns in Female Runners 
The aim of this study was to examine the effects of a 6-week training program of simulated barefoot running (SBR) on running kinetics in habitually shod (wearing shoes) female recreational runners.
Twelve female runners age 25.7±3.4 years gradually increased running distance in Vibram FiveFingers minimal shoes over a 6-week period. The kinetic analysis of treadmill running at 10 Km/h was performed pre- and post-intervention in shod running, non-habituated SBR, and habituated SBR conditions. Spatiotemporal parameters, ground reaction force components, and electromyography (EMG) were measured in all conditions.
Post-intervention data indicated a significant decrease across time in the habituation SBR for EMG activity of the tibialis anterior (TA) in the pre-activation and absorptive phase of running (P<0.001). A significant increase was denoted in the pre-activation amplitude of the gastrocnemius (GAS) between the shod running, unhabituated SBR, and habituated SBR. Six weeks of SBR was associated with a significant decrease in the loading rates and impact forces. Additionally, SBR significantly decrease the stride length, step duration, and flight time, and stride frequency was significantly higher compared to shod running.
The findings of this study indicate that changes in motor patterns in previously habitually shod runners are possible and can be accomplished within 6 weeks. Non-habituation SBR did not show a significant neuromuscular adaptation in the EMG activity of TA and GAS as manifested after 6 weeks of habituated SBR.
PMCID: PMC4514266  PMID: 26166443
Electromyography; Female; Running
13.  Comparison of Minimalist Footwear Strategies for Simulating Barefoot Running: A Randomized Crossover Study 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0125880.
Possible benefits of barefoot running have been widely discussed in recent years. Uncertainty exists about which footwear strategy adequately simulates barefoot running kinematics. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of athletic footwear with different minimalist strategies on running kinematics. Thirty-five distance runners (22 males, 13 females, 27.9 ± 6.2 years, 179.2 ± 8.4 cm, 73.4 ± 12.1 kg, 24.9 ± 10.9 km.week-1) performed a treadmill protocol at three running velocities (2.22, 2.78 and 3.33 m.s-1) using four footwear conditions: barefoot, uncushioned minimalist shoes, cushioned minimalist shoes, and standard running shoes. 3D kinematic analysis was performed to determine ankle and knee angles at initial foot-ground contact, rate of rear-foot strikes, stride frequency and step length. Ankle angle at foot strike, step length and stride frequency were significantly influenced by footwear conditions (p<0.001) at all running velocities. Posthoc pairwise comparisons showed significant differences (p<0.001) between running barefoot and all shod situations as well as between the uncushioned minimalistic shoe and both cushioned shoe conditions. The rate of rear-foot strikes was lowest during barefoot running (58.6% at 3.33 m.s-1), followed by running with uncushioned minimalist shoes (62.9%), cushioned minimalist (88.6%) and standard shoes (94.3%). Aside from showing the influence of shod conditions on running kinematics, this study helps to elucidate differences between footwear marked as minimalist shoes and their ability to mimic barefoot running adequately. These findings have implications on the use of footwear applied in future research debating the topic of barefoot or minimalist shoe running.
PMCID: PMC4444250  PMID: 26011042
14.  Lower Limb Joint Kinetics During Moderately Sloped Running 
Journal of Athletic Training  2010;45(1):16-21.
Knowledge of the kinetic changes that occur during sloped running is important in understanding the adaptive gait-control mechanisms at work and can provide additional information about the poorly understood relationship between injury and changes in kinetic forces in the lower extremity. A study of these potential kinetic changes merits consideration, because training and return-to-activity programs are potentially modifiable factors for tissue stress and injury risk.
To contribute further to the understanding of hill running by quantifying the 3-dimensional alterations in joint kinetics during moderately sloped decline, level, and incline running in a group of healthy runners.
Crossover study.
Three-dimensional motion analysis laboratory.
Patients or Other Participants:
Nineteen healthy young runners/joggers (age  =  25.3 ± 2.5 years).
Participants ran at 3.13 m/s on a treadmill under the following 3 different running-surface slope conditions: 4° decline, level, and 4° incline.
Main Outcome Measure(s):
Lower extremity joint moments and powers and the 3 components of the ground reaction force.
Moderate changes in running-surface slope had a minimal effect on ankle, knee, and hip joint kinetics when velocity was held constant. Only changes in knee power absorption (increased with decline-slope running) and hip power (increased generation on incline-slope running and increased absorption on decline-slope running in early stance) were noted. We observed an increase only in the impact peak of the vertical ground reaction force component during decline-slope running, whereas the nonvertical components displayed no differences.
Running style modifications associated with running on moderate slopes did not manifest as changes in 3-dimensional joint moments or in the active peaks of the ground reaction force. Our data indicate that running on level and moderately inclined slopes appears to be a safe component of training regimens and return-to-run protocols after injury.
PMCID: PMC2808749  PMID: 20064043
biomechanics; decline running; incline running; joint moments; joint power
Almost all research using participants wearing barefoot‐style shoes study elite runners or have participants with a history of barefoot style shoe training run on a treadmill when shod or barefoot. Wearing barefoot‐style shoes is suggested as a method of transition between shod and barefoot running. Static and dynamic balance exercises also are recommended. However, little information is available on the effects five‐toed barefoot style shoes have on static balance. The purpose of this study was to examine balance of subjects barefoot, wearing Vibram FiveFingers™ barefoot‐style shoes, and regular athletic shoes with eyes closed when using the Biodex Balance System‐SD™.
Study Design
This was a repeated measures study.
Forty nine participants aged 18‐30 years without lower extremity injury or experience wearing barefoot‐style shoes were tested for static balance on the Biodex Stability System™ with their eyes closed while wearing Vibram FiveFingers™, athletic shoes, or barefoot. Three trials of 10 seconds for each footwear type were completed. Repeated measures analysis of variance with Bonferroni's correction was used to analyze the degrees of sway in the anterior‐posterior and medial lateral directions. An overall stability index was also calculated by the Biodex.
For anterior‐posterior and overall indices, differences were found between all conditions. Participants wearing athletic shoes demonstrated the smallest anterior‐posterior stability index (least sway) and spent the most time in the innermost concentric circular zone. Medial‐lateral indices were not different for any condition.
Wearing Vibram FiveFingers™ provided better overall and anterior‐posterior static balance than going barefoot. While differences between Vibram FiveFingers™ and barefoot are significant, results may reflect statistical significance rather than any clinical difference in young, uninjured individuals.
Clinical relevance
It would appear that Vibram FiveFingers™ mimic going barefoot and may be a bridge for exercising in preparation for barefoot exercise.
Level of Evidence
PMCID: PMC4325290  PMID: 25709865
static balance; Biodex; postural control; postural index; Vibram FiveFingers
16.  Effects of Surface Inclination on the Vertical Loading Rates and Landing Pattern during the First Attempt of Barefoot Running in Habitual Shod Runners 
BioMed Research International  2015;2015:240153.
Barefoot running has been proposed to reduce vertical loading rates, which is a risk factor of running injuries. Most of the previous studies evaluated runners on level surfaces. This study examined the effect of surface inclination on vertical loading rates and landing pattern during the first attempt of barefoot running among habitual shod runners. Twenty habitual shod runners were asked to run on treadmill at 8.0 km/h at three inclination angles (0°; +10°; −10°) with and without their usual running shoes. Vertical average rate (VALR) and instantaneous loading rate (VILR) were obtained by established methods. Landing pattern was decided using high-speed camera. VALR and VILR in shod condition were significantly higher (p < 0.001) in declined than in level or inclined treadmill running, but not in barefoot condition (p > 0.382). There was no difference (p > 0.413) in the landing pattern among all surface inclinations. Only one runner demonstrated complete transition to non-heel strike landing in all slope conditions. Reducing heel strike ratio in barefoot running did not ensure a decrease in loading rates (p > 0.15). Conversely, non-heel strike landing, regardless of footwear condition, would result in a softer landing (p < 0.011).
PMCID: PMC4518151  PMID: 26258133
17.  Joint kinematics and kinetics of overground accelerated running versus running on an accelerated treadmill 
Literature shows that running on an accelerated motorized treadmill is mechanically different from accelerated running overground. Overground, the subject has to enlarge the net anterior–posterior force impulse proportional to acceleration in order to overcome linear whole body inertia, whereas on a treadmill, this force impulse remains zero, regardless of belt acceleration. Therefore, it can be expected that changes in kinematics and joint kinetics of the human body also are proportional to acceleration overground, whereas no changes according to belt acceleration are expected on a treadmill. This study documents kinematics and joint kinetics of accelerated running overground and running on an accelerated motorized treadmill belt for 10 young healthy subjects. When accelerating overground, ground reaction forces are characterized by less braking and more propulsion, generating a more forward-oriented ground reaction force vector and a more forwardly inclined body compared with steady-state running. This change in body orientation as such is partly responsible for the changed force direction. Besides this, more pronounced hip and knee flexion at initial contact, a larger hip extension velocity, smaller knee flexion velocity and smaller initial plantarflexion velocity are associated with less braking. A larger knee extension and plantarflexion velocity result in larger propulsion. Altogether, during stance, joint moments are not significantly influenced by acceleration overground. Therefore, we suggest that the overall behaviour of the musculoskeletal system (in terms of kinematics and joint moments) during acceleration at a certain speed remains essentially identical to steady-state running at the same speed, yet acting in a different orientation. However, because acceleration implies extra mechanical work to increase the running speed, muscular effort done (in terms of power output) must be larger. This is confirmed by larger joint power generation at the level of the hip and lower power absorption at the knee as the result of subtle differences in joint velocity. On a treadmill, ground reaction forces are not influenced by acceleration and, compared with overground, virtually no kinesiological adaptations to an accelerating belt are observed. Consequently, adaptations to acceleration during running differ from treadmill to overground and should be studied in the condition of interest.
PMCID: PMC3673159  PMID: 23676896
acceleration; running; overground; treadmill; joint kinetics; unsteady-state gait
18.  Changes in talocrural and subtalar joint kinematics of barefoot versus shod forefoot landing 
Synergetic talocrural and subtalar joint movements allow adaptation to different footwear and/or surface conditions. Therefore, knowledge of kinematic differences between barefoot and shod conditions is valuable for the study of adaptations to footwear conditions. The objective of this study was to assess the kinematic differences in the talocrural and subtalar joints during barefoot and shod landing.
Seven healthy participants (4 males and 3 females) participated in a landing trial under barefoot and shod conditions. Fluoroscopic images and forceplate data were collected simultaneously to calculate the talocrural and subtalar joint kinematics and the vertical ground reaction force.
Upon toe contact, the plantarflexion angle of the talocrural joint during the barefoot condition was significantly larger than that during the shod condition (barefoot, 20.5 ± 7.1°, shod, 17.9 ± 8.3°, p =0.03). From toe contact to heel contact, the angular changes at the talocrural and subtalar joint were not significantly different between the barefoot and shod conditions; however, the changes in the subtalar eversion angles in the barefoot condition, from heel contact to 150 ms after toe contact, were significantly larger than those in the shod condition.
These results suggest that footwear was able to reduce the eversion angle of the subtalar joint after heel contact during landing; the effect of wearing footwear was quite limited. Therefore, induced rearfoot kinematic alterations to prevent or manage injuries by neutral-type footwear are likely to be impractical.
PMCID: PMC4197340  PMID: 25320641
Kinematics; Tibia; Talus; Calcaneus; Shoes
19.  Effects of Step Rate Manipulation on Joint Mechanics during Running 
The objective of this study was to characterize the biomechanical effects of step rate modification during running on the hip, knee and ankle joints, so as to evaluate a potential strategy to reduce lower extremity loading and risk for injury.
Three-dimensional kinematics and kinetics were recorded from 45 healthy recreational runners during treadmill running at constant speed under various step rate conditions (preferred, ± 5% and ± 10%). We tested our primary hypothesis that a reduction in energy absorption by the lower extremity joints during the loading response would occur, primarily at the knee, when step rate was increased.
Less mechanical energy was absorbed at the knee (p<0.01) during the +5% and +10% step rate conditions, while the hip (p<0.01) absorbed less energy during the +10% condition only. All joints displayed substantially (p<0.01) more energy absorption when preferred step rate was reduced by 10. Step length (p<0.01), center of mass vertical excursion (p<0.01), breaking impulse (p<0.01) and peak knee flexion angle (p<0.01) were observed to decrease with increasing step rate. When step rate was increased 10% above preferred, peak hip adduction angle (p<0.01), as well as peak hip adduction (p<0.01) and internal rotation (p<0.01) moments, were found to decrease.
We conclude that subtle increases in step rate can substantially reduce the loading to the hip and knee joints during running and may prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of common running-related injuries.
PMCID: PMC3022995  PMID: 20581720
energy absorption; knee; stride length; injury prevention; rehabilitation
20.  A comparison of gait biomechanics of flip-flops, sandals, barefoot and shoes 
Flip-flops and sandals are popular choices of footwear due to their convenience. However, the effects of these types of footwear on lower extremity biomechanics are still poorly understood. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate differences in ground reaction force (GRF), center of pressure (COP) and lower extremity joint kinematic and kinetic variables during level-walking in flip-flops, sandals and barefoot compared to running shoes.
Ten healthy males performed five walking trials in the four footwear conditions at 1.3 m/s. Three-dimensional GRF and kinematic data were simultaneously collected.
A smaller loading rate of the 1st peak vertical GRF and peak propulsive GRF and greater peak dorsiflexion moment in early stance were found in shoes compared to barefoot, flip-flops and sandals. Barefoot walking yielded greater mediolateral COP displacement, flatter foot contact angle, increased ankle plantarflexion contact angle, and smaller knee flexion contact angle and range of motion compared to all other footwear.
The results from this study indicate that barefoot, flip-flops and sandals produced different peak GRF variables and ankle moment compared to shoes while all footwear yield different COP and ankle and knee kinematics compared to barefoot. The findings may be helpful to researchers and clinicians in understanding lower extremity mechanics of open-toe footwear.
PMCID: PMC3907140  PMID: 24196492
Flip-flops; Sandals; Barefoot; Open-toe footwear; Kinematics; Kinetics; Gait; Footwear
Running gait retraining to change foot strike pattern in runners from a heel strike pattern to a non heel- strike pattern has been shown to reduce impact forces and may help to reduce running related injuries. Step rate manipulation above preferred is known to help decrease step length, foot inclination angle, and vertical mass excursion, but has not yet been evaluated as a method to change foot strike pattern. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of step rate manipulation on foot strike pattern in shod recreational runners who run with a heel strike pattern. A secondary purpose was to describe the effect of step rate manipulation at specific percentages above preferred on foot inclination angle at initial contact.
Forty volunteer runners, who were self-reported heel strikers and had a weekly running mileage of at least 10 miles, were recruited. Runners were confirmed to be heel strikers during the warm up period on the treadmill. The subject's step rate was determined at their preferred running pace. A metronome was used to increase step rate above the preferred step rate by 5%, 10% and 15%. 2D video motion analysis was utilized to determine foot strike pattern and to measure foot inclination angle at initial contact for each step rate condition.
There was a statistically significant change in foot strike pattern from a heel strike pattern to a mid-foot or forefoot strike pattern at both 10% and 15% step rates above preferred. Seven of the 40 subjects (17.5%) changed from a heel- strike pattern to a non- heel strike pattern at +10% and 12 of the 40 subjects (30%) changed to a non-heel strike pattern at +15%. Mean foot inclination angle at initial contact showed a statistically significant change (reduction) as step rate increased.
Step rate manipulation of 10% or greater may be enough to change foot strike pattern from a heel strike to a mid-foot or forefoot strike pattern in a small percentage of recreational runners who run in traditional running shoes. If changing the foot strike pattern is the main goal, other gait re-training methods may be needed to make a change from a heel strike to a non-heel strike pattern. Step rate manipulation shows a progressive reduction of foot inclination angle at 5%, 10%, and 15% above preferred step rate which reduces the severity of the heel strike at initial contact. Step rate manipulation of at least +10% above preferred may be an effective running gait retraining method for clinicians to decrease the severity of heel strike and possibly assist a runner to change to a non-heel strike pattern.
Level of Evidence
PMCID: PMC4739048  PMID: 26900500
Foot strike pattern; running gait retraining; step rate manipulation
22.  Effect of Minimalist Footwear on Running Efficiency 
Sports Health  2015;7(3):256-260.
Although minimalist footwear is increasingly popular among runners, claims that minimalist footwear enhances running biomechanics and efficiency are controversial.
Minimalist and barefoot conditions improve running efficiency when compared with traditional running shoes.
Study Design:
Randomized crossover trial.
Level of Evidence:
Level 3.
Fifteen experienced runners each completed three 90-second running trials on a treadmill, each trial performed in a different type of footwear: traditional running shoes with a heavily cushioned heel, minimalist running shoes with minimal heel cushioning, and barefoot (socked). High-speed photography was used to determine foot strike, ground contact time, knee angle, and stride cadence with each footwear type.
Runners had more rearfoot strikes in traditional shoes (87%) compared with minimalist shoes (67%) and socked (40%) (P = 0.03). Ground contact time was longest in traditional shoes (265.9 ± 10.9 ms) when compared with minimalist shoes (253.4 ± 11.2 ms) and socked (250.6 ± 16.2 ms) (P = 0.005). There was no difference between groups with respect to knee angle (P = 0.37) or stride cadence (P = 0.20). When comparing running socked to running with minimalist running shoes, there were no differences in measures of running efficiency.
When compared with running in traditional, cushioned shoes, both barefoot (socked) running and minimalist running shoes produce greater running efficiency in some experienced runners, with a greater tendency toward a midfoot or forefoot strike and a shorter ground contact time. Minimalist shoes closely approximate socked running in the 4 measurements performed.
Clinical Relevance:
With regard to running efficiency and biomechanics, in some runners, barefoot (socked) and minimalist footwear are preferable to traditional running shoes.
PMCID: PMC4482302  PMID: 26131304
running biomechanics; traditional shoes; minimalist shoes; foot strike; ground contact time
23.  The effect of external ankle support on the kinematics and kinetics of the lower limb during a side step cutting task in netballers 
Excessive knee valgus moments are considered to be a risk factor for non-contact injuries in female athletes. Knee injuries are highly prevalent in netballers and are significant in terms of cost and disability. The aim of the study was to identify if changes in external ankle support mechanisms effect the range of motion and loading patterns at the ankle and knee joint during a sidestep cutting manoeuvre in high performance netball players.
Netballers with no previously diagnosed ankle or knee injury (n = 10) were recruited from NSW Institute of Sport netball programme. Kinematic and kinetic data were collected simultaneously using a 3-D Motion Analysis System and a force platform to measure ground reaction forces. Players performed repeated side step cutting manoeuvres whilst wearing a standard netball shoe, the same shoe with a lace-up brace and a high-top shoe.
The brace condition significantly reduced ankle joint ROM in the sagittal plane by 8.9° ± 2.4 when compared to the standard netball shoe (p = 0.013). No other significant changes were seen between conditions for either kinematic or kinetic data. All shoe conditions did however produce knee valgus moments throughout the cutting cycle that were greater than those considered excessive in the previous literature (0.59 Nm/kg-Bwt).
The results show that an external ankle support brace can be used to reduce the ROM at the ankle in the sagittal plane without affecting the loading of the joints of the lower limb. Internal varus moments generated at the knee during the task were however greater than values reported in the literature to classify excessive knee joint moments, regardless of the condition. All netballers exhibited lower extremity patterns and alignments previously associated with increased peak external valgus moments including; increasing hip abduction, peak hip flexion and internal rotation during early contact and high laterally directed ground reaction forces. Increased external valgus knee loads have been strongly linked to the development of non-contact injuries at the knee in female athletes and could highlight a potential mechanism for the development non-contact knee injuries in netballers performing side step cutting tasks.
PMCID: PMC4297419  PMID: 25598984
Netball; Sidestep cutting; Biomechanics; External ankle support; Knee joint loading; Internal valgus moment
24.  Assessing the Relative Contributions of Active Ankle and Knee Assistance to the Walking Mechanics of Transfemoral Amputees Using a Powered Prosthesis 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(1):e0147661.
Powered knee-ankle prostheses are capable of providing net-positive mechanical energy to amputees. Yet, there are limitless ways to deliver this energy throughout the gait cycle. It remains largely unknown how different combinations of active knee and ankle assistance affect the walking mechanics of transfemoral amputees. This study assessed the relative contributions of stance phase knee swing initiation, increasing ankle stiffness and powered plantarflexion as three unilateral transfemoral amputees walked overground at their self-selected walking speed. Five combinations of knee and ankle conditions were evaluated regarding the kinematics and kinetics of the amputated and intact legs using repeated measures analyses of variance. We found eliminating active knee swing initiation or powered plantarflexion was linked to increased compensations of the ipsilateral hip joint during the subsequent swing phase. The elimination of knee swing initiation or powered plantarflexion also led to reduced braking ground reaction forces of the amputated and intact legs, and influenced both sagittal and frontal plane loading of the intact knee joint. Gradually increasing prosthetic ankle stiffness influenced the shape of the prosthetic ankle plantarflexion moment, more closely mirroring the intact ankle moment. Increasing ankle stiffness also corresponded to increased prosthetic ankle power generation (despite a similar maximum stiffness value across conditions) and increased braking ground reaction forces of the amputated leg. These findings further our understanding of how to deliver assistance with powered knee-ankle prostheses and the compensations that occur when specific aspects of assistance are added/removed.
PMCID: PMC4725744  PMID: 26807889
25.  Variation in Foot Strike Patterns during Running among Habitually Barefoot Populations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52548.
Endurance running may have a long evolutionary history in the hominin clade but it was not until very recently that humans ran wearing shoes. Research on modern habitually unshod runners has suggested that they utilize a different biomechanical strategy than runners who wear shoes, namely that barefoot runners typically use a forefoot strike in order to avoid generating the high impact forces that would be experienced if they were to strike the ground with their heels first. This finding suggests that our habitually unshod ancestors may have run in a similar way. However, this research was conducted on a single population and we know little about variation in running form among habitually barefoot people, including the effects of running speed, which has been shown to affect strike patterns in shod runners. Here, we present the results of our investigation into the selection of running foot strike patterns among another modern habitually unshod group, the Daasanach of northern Kenya. Data were collected from 38 consenting adults as they ran along a trackway with a plantar pressure pad placed midway along its length. Subjects ran at self-selected endurance running and sprinting speeds. Our data support the hypothesis that a forefoot strike reduces the magnitude of impact loading, but the majority of subjects instead used a rearfoot strike at endurance running speeds. Their percentages of midfoot and forefoot strikes increased significantly with speed. These results indicate that not all habitually barefoot people prefer running with a forefoot strike, and suggest that other factors such as running speed, training level, substrate mechanical properties, running distance, and running frequency, influence the selection of foot strike patterns.
PMCID: PMC3541372  PMID: 23326341

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