April 2014

Joint stiffness and negative joint work change with footfall pattern in runners

In the moment: Sports medicine

By P.K. Daniel

Runners who switch foot strike patterns experience short-term changes in joint stiffness and negative joint work, regardless of whether a runner’s habitual pattern involves the forefoot or rearfoot, according to research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The researchers analyzed 40 healthy, young runners—20 habitual forefoot strikers and 20 habitual rearfoot strikers—as they ran overground using their natural and nonpreferred footfall patterns.

A forefoot strike pattern was associated with a stiffer knee and a more compliant ankle; the opposite was the case for a rearfoot strike pattern. Negative work was greater in the ankle and less in the knee in forefoot strikers and the reverse was found for rearfoot strikers. The findings were published in the March issue of the European Journal of Sport Science.

The changes in joint stiffness and joint work suggest that changing footfall pattern is associated with a reorganization of the control strategy of each joint, the authors concluded, which in turn supports the idea that injury risk in runners may be influenced by foot strike pattern.


Hamill J, Gruber AH, Derrick TR. Lower extremity joint stiffness characteristics during running with different footfall patterns. Eur J Sport Sci 2014;14(2):130-136.

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