Redistribution of mechanical work at the knee and ankle joints during fast running in minimalist shoes

Joel T. Fuller, Jonathan D. Buckley, Margarita D. Tsiros, Nicholas A.T. Brown, Dominic Thewlis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Minimalist shoes have been suggested as a way to alter running biomechanics to improve running performance and reduce injuries. However, to date, researchers have only considered the effect of minimalist shoes at slow running speeds. Objective: To determine if runners change foot-strike pattern and alter the distribution of mechanical work at the knee and ankle joints when running at a fast speed in minimalist shoes compared with conventional running shoes. Design: Crossover study. Setting: Research laboratory. Patients or Other Participants: Twenty-six trained runners (age = 30.0 ± 7.9 years [age range, 18-40 years], height = 1.79 ± 0.06 m, mass = 75.3 ± 8.2 kg, weekly training distance = 27 ± 15 km) who ran with a habitual rearfoot foot-strike pattern and had no experience running in minimalist shoes. Intervention(s): Participants completed overground running trials at 18 km/h in minimalist and conventional shoes. Main Outcome Measure(s): Sagittal-plane kinematics and joint work at the knee and ankle joints were computed using 3-dimensional kinematic and ground reaction force data. Footstrike pattern was classified as rearfoot, midfoot, or forefoot strike based on strike index and ankle angle at initial contact. Results: We observed no difference in foot-strike classification between shoes (χ21 = 2.29, P =.13). Ankle angle at initial contact was less (2.468 versus 7.43°; t25 = 3.34, P =.003) and strike index was greater (35.97% versus 29.04%; t25 = 2.38, P =.03) when running in minimalist shoes compared with conventional shoes. We observed greater negative (52.87 J versus 42.46 J; t24 = 2.29, P =.03) and positive work (68.91 J versus 59.08 J; t24 = 2.65, P=.01) at the ankle but less negative (59.01 J versus 67.02 J; t24 = 2.25, P =.03) and positive work (40.37 J versus 47.09 J; t24 = 2.11, P =.046) at the knee with minimalist shoes compared with conventional shoes. Conclusions: Running in minimalist shoes at a fast speed caused a redistribution of work from the knee to the ankle joint. This finding suggests that runners changing from conventional to minimalist shoes for short-distance races could be at an increased risk of ankle and calf injuries but a reduced risk of knee injuries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)806-812
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Athletic Training
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


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