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  • Author: Stephen J. Piazza x
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Herman van Werkhoven and Stephen J. Piazza

Several recent investigations have linked running economy to heel length, with shorter heels being associated with less metabolic energy consumption. It has been hypothesized that shorter heels require larger plantar flexor muscle forces, thus increasing tendon energy storage and reducing metabolic cost. The goal of this study was to investigate this possible mechanism for metabolic cost reduction. Fifteen male subjects ran at 16 km⋅h−1 on a treadmill and subsequently on a force-plate instrumented runway. Measurements of oxygen consumption, kinematics, and ground reaction forces were collected. Correlational analyses were performed between oxygen consumption and anthropometric and kinetic variables associated with the ankle and foot. Correlations were also computed between kinetic variables (peak joint moment and peak tendon force) and heel length. Estimated peak Achilles tendon force normalized to body weight was found to be strongly correlated with heel length normalized to body height (r = −.751, p = .003). Neither heel length nor any other measured or calculated variable were correlated with oxygen consumption, however. Subjects with shorter heels experienced larger Achilles tendon forces, but these forces were not associated with reduced metabolic cost. No other anthropometric and kinetic variables considered explained the variance in metabolic cost across individuals.

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Sabrina S.M. Lee, Gregory S. Lewis and Stephen J. Piazza

The accuracy of an algorithm for the automated tracking of tendon excursion from ultrasound images was tested in three experiments. Because the automated method could not be tested against direct measurements of tendon excursion in vivo, an indirect validation procedure was employed. In one experiment, a wire “phantom” was moved a known distance across the ultrasound probe and the automated tracking results were compared with the known distance. The excursion of the musculotendinous junction of the gastrocnemius during frontal and sagittal plane movement of the ankle was assessed in a single cadaver specimen both by manual tracking and with a cable extensometer sutured to the gastrocnemius muscle. A third experiment involved estimation of Achilles tendon excursion in vivo with both manual and automated tracking. Root mean squared (RMS) error was calculated between pairs of measurements after each test. Mean RMS errors of less than 1 mm were observed for the phantom experiments. For the in vitro experiment, mean RMS errors of 8–9% of the total tendon excursion were observed. Mean RMS errors of 6–8% of the total tendon excursion were found in vivo. The results indicate that the proposed algorithm accurately tracks Achilles tendon excursion, but further testing is necessary to determine its general applicability.