Lower Extremity Biomechanics and Self-Reported Foot-Strike Patterns Among Runners in Traditional and Minimalist Shoes

J Athl Train. 2015 Jun;50(6):603-11. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050.49.6.06.


Context: The injury incidence rate among runners is approximately 50%. Some individuals have advocated using an anterior-foot-strike pattern to reduce ground reaction forces and injury rates that they attribute to a rear-foot-strike pattern. The proportion of minimalist shoe wearers who adopt an anterior-foot-strike pattern remains unclear.

Objective: To evaluate the accuracy of self-reported foot-strike patterns, compare negative ankle- and knee-joint angular work among runners using different foot-strike patterns and wearing traditional or minimalist shoes, and describe average vertical-loading rates.

Design: Descriptive laboratory study.

Setting: Research laboratory.

Patients or other participants: A total of 60 healthy volunteers (37 men, 23 women; age = 34.9 ± 8.9 years, height = 1.74 ± 0.08 m, mass = 70.9 ± 13.4 kg) with more than 6 months of experience wearing traditional or minimalist shoes were instructed to classify their foot-strike patterns.

Intervention(s): Participants ran in their preferred shoes on an instrumented treadmill with 3-dimensional motion capture.

Main outcome measure(s): Self-reported foot-strike patterns were compared with 2-dimensional video assessments. Runners were classified into 3 groups based on video assessment: traditional-shoe rear-foot strikers (TSR; n = 22), minimalist-shoe anterior-foot strikers (MSA; n = 21), and minimalist-shoe rear-foot strikers (MSR; n = 17). Ankle and knee negative angular work and average vertical-loading rates during stance phase were compared among groups.

Results: Only 41 (68.3%) runners reported foot-strike patterns that agreed with the video assessment (κ = 0.42, P < .001). The TSR runners demonstrated greater ankle-dorsiflexion and knee-extension negative work than MSA and MSR runners (P < .05). The MSA (P < .001) and MSR (P = .01) runners demonstrated greater ankle plantar-flexion negative work than TSR runners. The MSR runners demonstrated a greater average vertical-loading rate than MSA and TSR runners (P < .001).

Conclusions: Runners often cannot report their foot-strike patterns accurately and may not automatically adopt an anterior-foot-strike pattern after transitioning to minimalist running shoes.

Keywords: barefoot running; ground reaction forces; loading rate; negative work.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Joint / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Lower Extremity / physiology
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology
  • Running / physiology*
  • Self Report
  • Shoes*
  • Tarsal Bones / physiology