The spring-mass model, representing a runner as a point mass supported by a single linear leg spring, has been a widely used concept in studies on running and bouncing mechanics. However, the measurement of leg and vertical stiffness has previously required force platforms and high-speed kinematic measurement systems that are costly and difficult to handle in field conditions. We propose a new “sine-wave” method for measuring stiffness during running. Based on the modeling of the force-time curve by a sine function, this method allows leg and vertical stiffness to be estimated from just a few simple mechanical parameters: body mass, forward velocity, leg length, flight time, and contact time. We compared this method to force-platform-derived stiffness measurements for treadmill dynamometer and overground running conditions, at velocities ranging from 3.33 m·s–1 to maximal running velocity in both recreational and highly trained runners. Stiffness values calculated with the proposed method ranged from 0.67% to 6.93% less than the force platform method, and thus were judged to be acceptable. Furthermore, significant linear regressions (p < 0.01) close to the identity line were obtained between force platform and sine-wave model values of stiffness. Given the limits inherent in the use of the spring-mass model, it was concluded that this sine-wave method allows leg and stiffness estimates in running on the basis of a few mechanical parameters, and could be useful in further field measurements.
Physiology Laboratory, PPEH Res. Unit, Univ. of Saint-Etienne, CHU Bellevue, 42055 St-Etienne Cedex 02, France
Sport Sciences Res. Center, Faculty of Science and Technology, Univ. of La Réunion, 117 General Ailleret St., 97430 Le Tampon, France
Neuromuscular Res. Center, Univ. of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, 40014 Jyväskylä, Finland.