Adaptive locomotion: Foot strike pattern and limb mechanical stiffness while running over an obstacle

Roxanne Larsen, Robin Queen, Daniel Schmitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Previous studies of level running suggest runners adjust foot strike to control leg stiffness. This study aimed to determine how runners adjusted mechanical stiffness and foot strike prior to, during, and after a drop in surface height. Ten healthy subjects (5 male, 5 female; 24.32 ± 5.0 years) were video recorded as they ran on an outdoor path with a single drop in surface height (12.5 cm). Foot strike was recorded, while subject velocity, duty factor (DF), normalized maximum ground reaction force (GRFbw), vertical hip displacement (Δy), leg compression (ΔL), vertical (Kvert) and leg stiffness (Kleg), touchdown (TD) and takeoff angle (TO), and flight (Tf) and contact time (Tc) were calculated. Compared to the step before the drop, Tf, GRFbw, Kvert, Kleg, and TO increased, while Tc, DF, Δy, ΔL, and TD decreased in the step after the drop. Across trials, runners had either consistent or variable foot strike patterns. Runners using a consistent pattern most often shifted from rear to fore-foot strike in the steps before and after the drop, while those with a variable pattern showed less dramatic shifts. All parameters, except TD, were significantly different (p < 0.04) based on foot strike pattern, and comparisons between steps before and after the drop (except TD) were significantly different (p < 0.004). Runners with a variable foot strike pattern experienced smaller shifts within mechanical parameters when traveling over the drop, suggesting these runners may be able to stabilize limb mechanics on interrupted surfaces.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111283
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number2022
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Charlotte Miller, Michael Granatosky, Angel Zeininger, Karyne Rabey, Gillian Moritz, and William Jackson for their advice, insightful discussions, and assistance with logistics. We are also deeply appreciative to the Animal Locomotion Laboratory at Duke University, which helped both financially and logistically support this research endeavor.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Contact time
  • Flight time
  • Fore-foot strike
  • Rear-foot strike
  • Stabilization

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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