Hiking boots provide an interface for walking in challenging environments, typically equipped with a shaft to provide ankle joint stability in rough terrains. Currently it is unclear if the ankle joint is stabilized to an extent that protects against ankle injuries, and if so, to what degree this added ankle stability sacrifices ankle mobility and hence decreases efficient gait propulsion. The aim of the present study was to compare the effect of shaft construction and stiffness on lower extremity kinematics and kinetics during level and step-down walking to simulate hiking conditions. Thirteen healthy males walked in one low-cut and three shafted commercially available hiking shoes with varying shaft stiffness. Lower extremity kinematics and ground reaction forces were recorded simultaneously. During level walking, ankle plantar-dorsiflexion range of motion was significantly reduced for the stiffest shaft hiking shoe compared to the low-cut shoe. A reduction in the muscle contribution to ankle joint work was found for all shafted shoes compared to the low-cut shoe. The reduced ankle joint work for the shafted shoes conversely increased eccentric knee joint work. Kinematic and kinetic differences between shoes diminished during box step-down walking. The present study shows that shaft height and stiffness can influence ankle joint range of motion, and ankle and knee joint work, with the high-shaft shoes redistributing load from the ankle to the knee joint. This may have implications for gait efficiency and increase the risk of knee joint loading or injuries.
Keywords: Footwear; Gait analysis; Hiking; Kinematics; Kinetics; Outdoor; Shoe characteristics.
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