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Effect of Shoe and Surface Stiffness on Lower Limb Tendon Strain in Jumping


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 9 - p 1895–1903
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002004

Background Tendinopathies are painful overuse injuries observed in athletes participating in jumping sports. These injuries are heavily dependent on the resulting strain from the applied mechanical load. Therefore, mechanisms to reduce tendon strain may represent a primary prevention strategy to reduce the incidence of tendinopathy.

Purpose The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of shoe and surface stiffness on Achilles and patellar tendon strains during jumping. We hypothesized that less stiff shoes and surfaces would reduce Achilles and patellar tendon strains during jumping.

Methods Thirty healthy male basketball players performed countermovement jumps in three shoes and on three surfaces with different stiffness properties while motion capture, force platform, and jump height data were collected. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to obtain participant-specific tendon morphology, and a combined dynamometry/ultrasound/electromyography session was used to obtain tendon material properties. Finally, a musculoskeletal model was used to estimate tendon strains in each surface and shoe combination.

Results Achilles tendon strains during landing were reduced by 5.3% in the least stiff shoe compared with the stiffest shoe (P = 0.021) likely due to in bending stiffness altering the center of pressure location. Furthermore, Achilles tendon strains during landing were 5.7% and 8.1% lower on the stiffest surface compared with the least stiff and middle stiffness surfaces, respectively (P ≤ 0.047), because of changes in ground reaction force magnitude and center of pressure location. No effects of shoe stiffness or surface construction were observed for jump height (P > 0.243) or peak patellar tendon strains (P > 0.259).

Conclusions Changes to shoe stiffness and surface construction can alter Achilles tendon strains without affecting jump performance in athletes.

1Human Performance Laboratory, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Alberta, CANADA

2Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program, University of Calgary, Alberta, CANADA

3McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health, University of Calgary, Alberta, CANADA

Address for correspondence: Colin Firminger, M.Sc., KNB 219, Human Performance Laboratory, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB Canada, T2N 1N4; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2018.

Accepted for publication March 2019.

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Online date: April 10, 2019

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine