Changes in lower extremity movement and power absorption during forefoot striking and barefoot running

Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Oct;7(5):525-32.


Purpose/background: Both forefoot strike shod (FFS) and barefoot (BF) running styles result in different mechanics when compared to rearfoot strike (RFS) shod running. Additionally, running mechanics of FFS and BF running are similar to one another. Comparing the mechanical changes occurring in each of these patterns is necessary to understand potential benefits and risks of these running styles. The authors hypothesized that FFS and BF conditions would result in increased sagittal plane joint angles at initial contact and that FFS and BF conditions would demonstrate a shift in sagittal plane joint power from the knee to the ankle when compared to the RFS condition. Finally, total lower extremity power absorption will be least in BF and greatest in the RFS shod condition.

Methods: The study included 10 male and 10 female RFS runners who completed 3-dimensional running analysis in 3 conditions: shod with RFS, shod with FFS, and BF. Variables were the angles of plantarflexion, knee flexion, and hip flexion at initial contact and peak sagittal plane joint power at the hip, knee, and ankle during stance phase.

Results: Running with a FFS pattern and BF resulted in significantly greater plantarflexion and significantly less negative knee power (absorption) when compared to shod RFS condition. FFS condition runners landed in the most plantarflexion and demonstrated the most peak ankle power absorption and lowest knee power absorption between the 3 conditions. BF and FFS conditions demonstrated decreased total lower extremity power absorption compared to the shod RFS condition but did not differ from one another.

Conclusions: BF and FFS running result in reduced total lower extremity power, hip power and knee power and a shift of power absorption from the knee to the ankle.

Clinical relevance: Alterations associated with BF running patterns are present in a FFS pattern when wearing shoes. Additionally, both patterns result in increased demand at the foot and ankle as compared to the knee.

Keywords: barefoot running; biomechanics; running; strike pattern.