Background: Determining if and how the kinematic relationship between adjacent body segments changes when an individual's gait pattern is experimentally manipulated can yield insight into the robustness of the kinematic coupling across the associated joint(s). The aim of this study was to assess the effects on the kinematic coupling between the forefoot, rearfoot and shank during ground contact of running with alteration in foot strike pattern.
Methods: Twelve subjects ran over-ground using three different foot strike patterns (heel strike, forefoot strike, toe running). Kinematic data were collected of the forefoot, rearfoot and shank, which were modelled as rigid segments. Coupling at the ankle-complex and midfoot joints was assessed using cross-correlation and vector coding techniques.
Findings: In general good coupling was found between rearfoot frontal plane motion and transverse plane shank rotation regardless of foot strike pattern. Forefoot motion was also strongly coupled with rearfoot frontal plane motion. Subtle differences were noted in the amount of rearfoot eversion transferred into shank internal rotation in the first 10-15% of stance during heel strike running compared to forefoot and toe running, and this was accompanied by small alterations in forefoot kinematics.
Interpretation: These findings indicate that during ground contact in running there is strong coupling between the rearfoot and shank via the action of the joints in the ankle-complex. In addition, there was good coupling of both sagittal and transverse plane forefoot with rearfoot frontal plane motion via the action of the midfoot joints.