Effects of Foot Strike and Step Frequency on Achilles Tendon Stress During Running

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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Achilles tendon (AT) injuries are common in runners. The AT withstands high magnitudes of stress during running which may contribute to injury. Our purpose was to examine the effects of foot strike pattern and step frequency on AT stress and strain during running utilizing muscle forces based on a musculoskeletal model and subject-specific ultrasound-derived AT crosssectional area. Nineteen female runners performed running trials under 6 conditions, including rearfoot strike and forefoot strike patterns at their preferred cadence, +5%, and –5% preferred cadence. Rearfoot strike patterns had less peak AT stress (P < .001), strain (P < .001), and strain rate (P < .001) compared with the forefoot strike pattern. A reduction in peak AT stress and strain were exhibited with a +5% preferred step frequency relative to the preferred condition using a rearfoot (P < .001) and forefoot (P=.005) strike pattern. Strain rate was not different (P > .05) between step frequencies within each foot strike condition. Our results suggest that a rearfoot pattern may reduce AT stress, strain, and strain rate. Increases in step frequency of 5% above preferred frequency, regardless of foot strike pattern, may also lower peak AT stress and strain.

Michael Lyght, Matthew Nockerts, and Thomas W. Kernozek are with the La Crosse Institute for Movement Science, Department of Health Professions—Physical Therapy Program, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI, USA. Robert Ragan is with the Department of Physics,University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI, USA.

Address author correspondence to Thomas W. Kernozek at tkernozek@uwlax.edu.