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Impact reduction through long-term intervention in recreational runners: midfoot strike pattern versus low-drop/low-heel height footwear

Abstract

Impact reduction has become a factor of interest in the prevention of running-related injuries such as stress fractures. Currently, the midfoot strike pattern (MFS) is thought as a potential way to decrease impact. The purpose was to test the effects of two long-term interventions aiming to reduce impact during running via a transition to an MFS: a foot strike retraining versus a low-drop/low-heel height footwear. Thirty rearfoot strikers were randomly assigned to two experimental groups (SHOES and TRAIN). SHOES progressively wore low-drop/low-heel height shoes and TRAIN progressively adopted an MFS, over a 3-month period with three 30-min running sessions per week. Measurement sessions (pre-training, 1, 2 and 3 months) were performed during which subjects were equipped with three accelerometers on the shin, heel and metatarsals, and ran for 15 min on an instrumented treadmill. Synchronized acceleration and vertical ground reaction force signals were recorded. Peak heel acceleration was significantly lower as compared to pre-training for SHOES (−33.5 ± 12.8 % at 2 months and −25.3 ± 18.8 % at 3 months, p < 0.001), and so was shock propagation velocity (−12.1 ± 9.3 %, p < 0.001 at 2 months and −11.3 ± 4.6 %, p < 0.05 at 3 months). No change was observed for TRAIN. Important inter-individual variations were noted in both groups and reported pains were mainly located at the shin and calf. Although it induced reversible pains, low-drop/low-heel height footwear seemed to be more effective than foot strike retraining to attenuate heel impact in the long term.

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Abbreviations

BW:

Body weight

F max :

Maximal vertical ground reaction force

F q :

Step frequency

F z1 :

Magnitude of impact force peak

LR:

Vertical mean loading rate

MFS:

Midfoot strike

PHA:

Peak heel acceleration

PMA:

Peak metatarsal acceleration

PTA:

Peak tibial acceleration

PRS:

Preferred running speed

RFS:

Rearfoot strike

SPV:

Shock propagation velocity between heel and tibia

t c :

Contact time

t a :

Aerial time

\(t_{{f}_{z1}}\) :

Time to impact peak

T hm :

Time between heel and metatarsals peak accelerations

VGRF:

Vertical ground reaction force

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Drs. Pascal Edouard, Jean-Claude Chatard, Amaury Mazet, and David Hupin, from the Service de Physiologie Clinique, Médecine du Sport—Myologie, CHU Bellevue, Saint-Etienne for their help in the inclusion sessions and medical follow-up of the study. Salomon SAS supported this study through an MSc studentship grant allocated to Marlène Giandolini.

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Correspondence to Marlène Giandolini.

Additional information

Communicated by Jean-René Lacour.

Appendix

Appendix

See Fig. 4.

Fig. 4
figure4

Description of training programs through the thirty-nine training sessions for TRAIN (a) and SHOES (b). For TRAIN, black and grey bars refer to the running times (within the 30-min training session) with a MFS pattern (intervention) and with a freely chosen pattern (i.e. natural RFS pattern), respectively. For SHOES, black and grey bars refer to the running times (within the 30-min training session) with the low-drop/low-heel height shoes (intervention) and with the subjects’ usual shoes, respectively. Measurement sessions (pre-training, 1, 2 and 3 months) are also presented

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Giandolini, M., Horvais, N., Farges, Y. et al. Impact reduction through long-term intervention in recreational runners: midfoot strike pattern versus low-drop/low-heel height footwear. Eur J Appl Physiol 113, 2077–2090 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-013-2634-7

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Keywords

  • Running pattern
  • Impact
  • Midfoot strike
  • Footwear
  • Retraining