This week I got to participate in a small running study at the University of Leeds. A group of five exercise and sports science students had set up the study for their dissertations and put out the call for runners to take part. Always the willing and helpful citizen I went along to be a guinea pig. In the initial stage last month I simply had to run on a treadmill and be measured/weighed, and yesterday I went back to the lab for the full trials.
Here’s the blurb on the study:
Barefoot/minimalist running is becoming increasingly popular and it’s important to understand the potential differences between the biomechanics of running in different footwear and how this changes after a period of time running in them since this may have performance or injury related consequences.
There will be four conditions tested: barefoot, barefoot with sock, cushioned shoe and minimalist shoe (a shoe without cushioning). Two separate speeds will be used for the shoe conditions – a jog and a run. This will be no more than moderate-intensity exercise.
In-shoe pressure will be used to measure foot pressure during running to analyse foot strike pattern and plantar pressure distribution. Muscle activation of four muscle types will also be measured on the leg lower leg. This allows us to check the onset of muscle activation to check the muscles are activated at the same time since this has been shown to be an underlying cause inhibiting performance improvements or a possible injury. This requires the skin to be prepped for use of the EMG equipment, so the lower right legged will be shaved. The Qualisys camera system will require markers to be worn on both legs and the lower back. This is so the system can track the movement of the participant on running on the treadmill so kinematic data can be analysed. The data collected allows analysis of particular angles of the leg as well as velocities. A video camera is also used to record a real time image.
As it turned out they had abandoned the “barefoot with sock” condition as running with the pressure-sensitive insole and a sock was causing problems. I had markers and devices attached all over my legs, lower back and sides, which was rather amusing, and did the cushioned shoes first. They were Saucony, but I didn’t get the model details. The next shoes were VivoBareFoot, which I wear for walking around in anyway so am used to. And the final test was barefoot with the markers stuck on my skin. For each condition I ran for five minutes on the treadmill. I’m not sure what speed it was set at (they determined the pace they would use for me in the initial test) but it felt like a nice tempo pace.
Being the tippty-toe Bambi ninja that I am I had no problems running in new shoes. I always land midfoot, and in fact I am very forefoot with minimal or no shoes and when going faster.
I got to see a little bit of the data straightaway, including the info from the pressure sensitive insoles in the Vivo shoes – as expected I show the classic midfoot strike pattern. Apparently I was the only person to land midfoot in the cushioned shoes as well – everyone else had been heel striking in those but becoming more midfoot in minimal shoes and when barefoot.
It was good fun and the students were very friendly and confident in explaining everything they were doing. I’m glad to have been able to help out and am looking forward to reading what they make of their findings. I hope I wasn’t too much of a statistical anomaly to throw their data!