The relationship between foot arch flexibility and medial-lateral ground reaction force distribution.

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Center for Innovation and Engineering, Civil and Mechanical Engineering

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Publication Title

Gait & Posture

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BACKGROUND: Overuse running injury susceptibility has previously been associated with the magnitude and slope of ground reaction force profiles, most often in the vertical axis. However, despite the implications of excessive pronation and supination on injury susceptibility, very little research has examined the factors that might affect distribution of force in the medial-lateral directions.

RESEARCH QUESTION: The purpose of this study was to consider how foot structure, specifically arch flexibility, affects the distribution of ground reaction force between the medial-lateral and vertical planes of motion.

METHODS: Twenty-five participants were classified as having stiff or flexible arches, and three dimensional kinetic data were gathered while the volunteers ran at 7 mph on an instrumented treadmill. A mixed-effects ANOVA was used to analyze the effect of arch flexibility type on distribution of ground reaction force impulse in the medial and lateral directions.

RESULTS: The results suggest that individuals with relatively stiff arches experience a greater proportion of ground reaction force in the medial-lateral plane of motion, as compared with those with more flexible arches (p = 0.03). Further, the results suggest that most individuals, regardless of foot structure, experience greater impulse of force in the lateral than in the medial direction (p < 0.01).

SIGNIFICANCE: Considering previously explored relationships between ground reaction force, foot pronation/supination, and chronic running injuries, the results of this study suggest that arch flexibility could be used as a criterion for assessing injury susceptibility. Further, conclusions drawn from this study add to the discussion on the pros and cons of training or using devices to increase or restrict arch flexibility while running.

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