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Running biomechanics: shorter heels, better economy

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by NewsBot, Nov 27, 2008.

  1. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.


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    Running biomechanics: shorter heels, better economy M. N. Scholz1, M. F. Bobbert, A. J. van Soest, J. R. Clark and J. van Heerden
    Journal of Experimental Biology 211, 3266-3271 (2008)
  2. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    This is from New Scientist:
    A short heel helps runners go the distance
    Researchers measured the horizontal distance from the lateral and medial malleolus (the white dot in the photo) to the Achilles tendon. The length (black line) determines how competitive you will be at distance running:

    Attached Files:

  3. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Just a research design question really - how when performing a study such as this can you rule out other factors which may contribute to improved running efficiancy (such as individual physiology etc)?
  4. Better metabolic efficiency during running does not always mean faster race times. Many runners can race at a higher percentage of their aerobic capacity and have a higher lactate threshold which will also greatly improve race times in distance events. In addition, for sprints, where anaerobic metabolism is more of a factor, metabolic efficiency is not near as much of a concern, as it is in longer, distance events.

    This research correlates with one of the papers I always reference in my PowerPoint lecture on the "Biomechanics of Running" that found the total energy turnover for each foot strike is 100 Joules (J) for a 70 kg man running at 4.5 m/sec (5:58 mile pace), that 17 J of energy is stored by the compliant elements of the arch of the foot (eg. plantar fascia) and that 35 J of energy is stored in Achilles tendon (Ker, R.F., Bennett, M.B.,Bibby, S.R., Kester, R.C., Alexander, R. McN.: The spring in the arch of the human foot. Nature, 325: 147-149, 1987.) Very interesting research.
  5. IvoFlipse

    IvoFlipse Welcome New Poster

    It doesn't really seem to be a factor for improvement either...

    I don't see people cutting loose their Achilles tendon over these findings
  6. Scorpio622

    Scorpio622 Active Member

    I had heard that 5'7" is the ideal height for a long distance runner. Is this true and is there evidence to support this?

  7. Nick:

    Possibly 5' 7" is the average height of the best distance runners. During my days as a member of the UC Davis cross country team, I was one of the heavier, taller runners at 5' 10" and 154 lbs (70.0 kg). Some were taller and heavier than me, but most were shorter and lighter than me. And most were faster than me also. I would say, that for men, 5' 7" seems about right as the average height of many of the world's best distance runners. In women, however, I would bet that the average best distance runner height is more like 5' 4". These are just my observations from 37 years of distance running experience. I don't know of any research evidence to support it one way or the other.
  8. Scorpio622

    Scorpio622 Active Member


    Thanks for the reply. If it pertains to running and YOU believe it, then that's evidence enough for me. Besides, I am for anything that gives us short guys an advantage. It's interesting because on the surface, most believe 'longer legs-longer strides-faster runner" but I know it's all about efficiency. Is there any information as to the ideal height for mid-distance and sprinters?

    With how obsessed some runners are, do you think we can offer Ilizarov leg shortening to the slower taller runners????


  9. Nick:

    In the shorter sprints, such as 50 meter dash, generally the shorter-legged runners beat the longer-legged runners presumably since the increased stride frequency that the shorter-legged runners can generate in the first section of the race favors more rapid acceleration and earlier peak velocity. However, as the sprint race lengthens, the longer-legged runner is generally favored over the short-legged runner since they can cover greater distances with each stride. The largely anaerobic nature of sprint events tend to favor body types that can generate a maximum work effort in the shortest period of time (large muscles in legs and upper body), with little regard to metabolic economy.

    In distance events, 5,000 meters and greater, definitely metabolic economy plays a very large factor. These athletes must run with not only a high work output, but must do it mostly using aerobic metabolism. Therefore, large muscle masses on the legs and heavily muscled upper bodies don't win races from 5K and above since the best runners must be metabolically economical. As the race lengthens, the runner with the least body weight and highest sustainable work output will be favored. In addition, for distance runners, in order to even become an elite runner, huge amounts of training mileage must be done and the musculoskeletal system must be designed to be able to do these training miles without injury, or the individual will never be able to do the miles to become an elite runner.

    In conclusion, I don't think there is a single optimal leg length for each running event, there is more likely a range of leg lengths that will be able to produce superior running performances when combined with the other psychological and physical factors that go into producing the elite runner.
  10. David Smith

    David Smith Well-Known Member

    Just to reawaken an old post, this may be of interest to you http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0048.htm

    Regards Dave Smith
  11. Seems like the ideal height weight has been throw out the window in the last 2 years. When it comes to running.

    Bolt v´s Gay v´s Powell 3 different body types 3 fastest men in the history of 100m and then if you look at the 800 the body types are becomming more of the classic 400m runner. Over 184CM / 6 foot and starting to bulk up with muscle both mean and women
    (and inbetween !!)
    Seems to be much more of in inner workings such as muscle type, cardo system etc which sets the likley hood of being good at the event as Kevin wrote above.

    The article above seems to indicate the lower the weight to better, But this really is a fat to muscle ratio thing. Thats really common sense fat does nothing to help you run faster just more load to propell which take more energy again common sense I would have thought.

    Michael Weber
  12. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Calcaneus length determines running economy: Implications for endurance running performance in modern humans and Neandertals.
    Raichlen DA, Armstrong H, Lieberman DE.
    J Hum Evol. 2011 Jan 24. [Epub ahead of print]
  13. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Lower leg morphology in runners: forefoot strikers have longer heels but not bigger muscles than rearfoot strikers
    L. S. Wessbecher, A. N. Ahn
    Journal of Experimental Biology 2019 222: jeb187815
  14. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Forefoot running requires shorter gastrocnemius fascicle length than rearfoot running
    Takahito Suzuki, Rintaro Ogane, Katsutoshi Yaeshima & Ryuta Kinugasa
    Journal of Sports Sciences : 29 Apr 2019
  15. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Shorter heels are linked with greater elastic energy storage in the Achilles tendon
    A D Foster et al
    Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 30;11(1):9360
  16. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Biomechanical Gain in Joint Excursion from the Curvature of the Achilles Tendon: Role of the Geometrical Arrangement of Inflection Point, Center of Rotation, and Calcaneus
    Ryuta Kinugasa et al
    Diagnostics (Basel). 2021 Nov 12;11(11):2097

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