Relationships Between Arch Height Flexibility and Medial–Lateral Ground Reaction Forces in Rearfoot and Forefoot Strike Runners

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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  • 1 Harvard Medical School
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Higher medial–lateral forces have been reported in individuals with stiffer foot arches. However, this was in a small sample of military personnel who ran with a rearfoot strike pattern. Therefore, our purpose was to investigate whether runners, both rearfoot and forefoot strikers, show different associations between medial–lateral forces and arch stiffness. A group of 118 runners (80 rearfoot strikers and 38 forefoot strikers) were recruited. Ground reaction force data were collected during running on an instrumented treadmill. Arch flexibility was assessed as the difference in arch height from sitting to standing positions, and participants were classified into stiff/flexible groups. Group comparisons were performed for the ratio of medial:vertical and lateral:vertical impulses. In rearfoot strikers, runners with stiff arches demonstrated significantly higher medial:vertical impulse ratios (P = .036). Forefoot strikers also demonstrated higher proportions of medial forces; however, the mean difference did not reach statistical significance (P = .084). No differences were detected in the proportion of lateral forces between arch flexibility groups. Consistent with previous findings in military personnel, our results indicate that recreational runners with stiffer arches have a higher proportion of medial forces. Therefore, increasing foot flexibility may increase the ability to attenuate medial forces.

The authors are with the Spaulding National Running Center, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Johnson (cdjohnson@mgh.harvard.org) is corresponding author.
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