The purpose of this study was to compare the heel pad mechanical properties of runners, who repetitively load the heel pad during training, with cyclists who do not load their heel pads during training. Ten competitive long distance runners and 10 competitive cyclists volunteered for this study. The thickness of the unloaded heel pad was measured using realtime B-mode ultrasonography. A heel pad indentation device was used to measure the mechanical properties of the heel pads. To evaluate the differences between the two groups, in heel pad properties, a repeat measures analysis of variance was used (p < .05). Heel pad thickness was not different between groups when normalized with respect to subject height. There was no significant difference between the groups in percentage energy loss during loading and unloading (runners: 61.4% ± 8.6; cyclists: 62.5% ± 4.6). Heel pad stiffness for the runners was statistically significantly less than that of the cyclists (p = .0018; runners: 17.1 N·mm−1 ± 3.0; cyclists: 20.4 N·mm−1 ± 4.0). These results indicate that the nature of the activity undertaken by individuals may influence their heel pad properties. This finding may be important when considering differences in heel pad properties between different populations.
The authors are with the Biomechanics Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.