Recent observations demonstrate that a sizeable proportion of the recreational running population runs at rather slow speeds and does not always show a clear flight phase. This study determined the key biomechanical and physiological characteristics of this running pattern, i.e., grounded running (GR), and compared these characteristics with slow aerial running (SAR) and reference data on walking at the same slow running speed.
Thirty male subjects performed instructed GR and SAR at 2.10 m·s−1
on a treadmill. Ground reaction forces, tibial accelerations, and metabolic rate were measured to estimate general musculoskeletal loading (external power and maximal vertical ground reaction force), impact
intensity (vertical instantaneous loading rate and tibial acceleration), and energy expenditure. More explicit measures of muscular loading (muscle stresses and peak eccentric power) were calculated based on a representative subsample, in which detailed kinematics and kinetics were recorded. We hypothesized that all measures would be lower for the GR condition.
Subjects successfully altered their running pattern upon a simple instruction toward a GR pattern by increasing their duty factor
from 41.5% to 51.2%. As hypothesized, impact
intensity, general measures for musculoskeletal, and the more explicit measures for muscular loading decreased by up to 35.0%, 20.3%, and 34.0%, respectively, compared with SAR. Contrary to our hypothesis, metabolic rate showed an increase of 4.8%.
Changing running style from SAR to GR reduces musculoskeletal loading without lowering the metabolic energy requirements. As such, GR might be beneficial for most runners as it has the potential to reduce the risk of running-related injuries while remaining a moderate to vigorous form of physical activity, contributing to fulfillment of the recommendations concerning physical activity and public health.