The purposes of this study were (a) to determine group and individual differences in oxygen consumption during heel-toe running and (b) to quantify the differences in EMG activity for selected muscle groups of the lower extremities when running in shoes with different mechanical heel characteristics. Twenty male runners performed heel-toe running using two shoe conditions, one with a mainly elastic and a visco-elastic heel. Oxygen consumption was quantified during steady state runs of 6 min duration, running slightly above the aerobic threshold providing four pairs of oxygen consumption results for comparison. Muscle activity was quantified using bipolar surface EMG measurements from the tibialis anterior, medial gastrocnemius, vastus medialis and the hamstrings muscle groups. EMG data were sampled for 5 s every minute for the 6 min providing 30 trials. EMG data were compared for the different conditions using an ANOVA (alpha=0.05). The findings of this study showed that changes in the heel material characteristics of running shoes were associated with (a) subject specific changes in oxygen consumption and (b) subject and muscle specific changes in the intensities of muscle activation before heel strike in the lower extremities. It is suggested that further study of these phenomena will help understand many aspects of human locomotion, including work, performance, fatigue and possible injuries.