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Anyone have any experience of working with pole vaulters?

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Griff, Jul 28, 2008.

  1. Griff

    Griff Moderator

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    This is not a clinical scenario, and I currently am not seeing a pole vaulter as a patient, but I do have a question based on an observation I made whilst at the London Grand Prix athletics at Crystal Palace as a spectator on Saturday.

    I was lucky enough to be in the front row, meaning I was about 2-3 feet away from the top 6 pole vaulters in the world and I couldnt help but notice the strange anatomy of a pole vaulting shoe - they appear to have a negative heel (approx 1-2cm lower than the forefoot). Does anyone know why this is? I know the run up is predominantly on the forefoot but they do spend at least 3-4 hours in these shoes whilst competing. I did a quick literature search but havent found anything as yet.

    Hope someone can shed some light

  2. When I was vaulting (some time ago) we used spikes designed for long/ triple jump as there wasn't a specific pole vaulting spike.

    Now you can buy specific pole vault shoes:

    My guess is that a negative heel it's to assist in upright transition and to help offset the mass of the pole. It will also pre-load the achilles, pretty useful in jumping events.

    Why not ask this question on one of the vaulting forums and get their responses?
  3. My five minute literature search turned up this:

    "Long Jump / Triple Jump / Pole Vault / High Jump / Javelin
    Long jump shoes tend to have a raised forefoot, sometimes referred to as a negative heel lift, that helps jumpers roll onto the forefoot during the plant for better toe-off.

    Triple jump shoes tend to have a more level profile with more cushioning under the heel to help absorb the impact of going from the hop-and-step phase to the jump.

    Pole vault shoes possess similar aspects of both long jump and triple jump shoes. Both are preferred for their toe-off properties. Personal preference applies."
  4. As Simon says, jumping sports and sprinting sports are more efficient by having the Achilles tendon preloaded with a slightly negative heeled shoe. Pole vaulting is a very unique sport which requires the athlete to 1) sprint as fast as they can with the pole in control, 2) plant the pole in the pit, and 3) convert the horizontal energy of the run up to the jump into as much vertical energy as possible by storing then releasing the energy in the pole vault pole. This is probably one of the most difficult field events to perform well and requires phenomenal skill, power, speed and upper body strength.
  5. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    which means they have no arm swing. Have you tried running fast with no arm swing? I find it hard enough jogging with the arena'ettes in their stroller...
  6. markjohconley

    markjohconley Well-Known Member

    Had a pole DANCER once. That is podiatrically; referred her onto to a 'gun' biomechanical pod. who apparently worked 'wonders'.
    I must confess that I find the female vaulters a bit like the female divers, veryyyyy easy to watch ... roll on the olympics!!
    Interestingly, when the female diving competition is on I'm front and centre whereas when it's the boy's turn I can't but help notice my wife suddenly and passionately taking an interest in sport! and she's not studying the kinetics of the foot either !

    Craig, I've never tried jogging in a stroller, will take your word for it it's 'hard', hard enough getting into one let alone jog in the damn thing ..... oh yeah commisserations re the AB's, missing so many players overseas
  7. A few years ago from age 16-18, i trained with a few of Australia’s top vaulters, and this allowed me to listen and learn from a few of Australia’s top coaches and other top vaulters. A lot of the better vaulters will only have a handful of attempts, say maybe 10?? Some times even less.
    Even though the competitions may go on for a number of hours, a lot of the time it will be spent sitting around. This will often be done in runners. Yes they may warm up in spikes, but may take them off till the height reaches their starting height. For those who leave their spikes on i personally found them to be a lot more comfortable than sprint spikes.

    The heel of vaulting shoes often are a bit thicker under the heel and sometimes extending a little further back than others (this was the case for a number of years with the adidas Triple Jump/ Pole Vault shoes). The spikes them selves differ quiet a lot in heel thickness and design brand to brand, but it is more of a personal choice. The negative heel will also differ. Some do have this negative heel, some will not be so evident. I find a bit more of a thicker heel helps, though you don’t want the shoe to be too bulky. Tatiana Grigorieva (silver in Sydney 2000) vaulted in distance spikes for a while (whilst sponsored by Nike) but switched to adidas spikes meaning she had to tape over their logo to keep Nike happy.

    The run up is a high hip run on the toes, with the last 2-4 strides maybe being slightly shorter / quicker. The stride going into take off, the foot will be planted slightly more forward to the body compared to the previous strides. This is where the thicker heel tends to help a bit. So that is just my thoughts on the vaulting shoe, but thinking about it, the preloading of the Achilles tendon will be definately of benefit.

    I hope this helps.... I have been out of it for a few years but do have some good contacts which will know a lot more if you want some more info.
  8. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Thanks Chris,

    Its interesting you say the run up is a high hip run, as I noticed at least 3 or 4 of them following their competitive jumps had a transient antalgic looking limp for about 5 minutes afterwards - is this something you have ever encountered?
  9. The higher hip run is carried to hopefully achieve an overall increase in height at take off. The higher you are at take off the closer you are to the box, thus making it easier to get through to the pit. The higher you are at take off also allows for a more mechanically fluet transfer of energy into the pole, allowing for a greater energy return from the pole. Being taller at take off makes it easier for the free take off as well.
    The limp i am not too sure about??? maybe being caught under or infront whilst planting ( Having the take off foot landing underneath the top hand) , causing them to have a greater overall distance to get the take off leg up to the top hand for the rock back. So maybe over stretching the hip flexors??? i attached a little picture to show what i mean. But as they are all high level athletes getting caught under the pole should not occur.

    oh this is a bit different but taking off and riding though on the pole and unfortunately having the pole finish up between the legs may cause a bit of a limp too...

    In the attachment, you can see it will be quiet hard getting from the position just after take take off, to the end stage of the rock back.

    hope this helps.

    Attached Files:

  10. Griff

    Griff Moderator


    I must admit when I saw Brad Walker limping a bit I thought 'uh-oh whats he done', then a few minutes later he seemed fine. Then later after Alexander Straub had vaulted he seemed to be limping slightly too, but only for a few minutes. I did not notice any major technical problems with their jumps, and they both had cleared 5.72 so mustve done something right...

    When I asked my brother who was next to me if he noticed it (to check I wasnt seeing things) he was most helpful: "Of course they look assymetrical - they a carrying a fricking big pole in one hand"

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