Relationship between running speed and initial foot contact patterns

Bastiaan Breine, Philippe Malcolm, Edward C. Frederick, Dirk De Clercq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: This study assessed initial foot contact patterns (IFCP) in a large group of distance runners and the effect of speed on the IFCP. METHODS: We determined the strike index to classify the runners in IFCP groups, at four speeds (3.2, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.2 ms-1), by measuring center of pressure (COP) with a 2-m plantar pressure plate. Such a system allows a direct localization of the COP on the plantar footprint and has a low threshold value (2.7 cm-2), resulting in more accurate COP data at low ground reaction forces than when obtained from force plate. RESULTS: The IFCP distribution evolves from mostly initial rearfoot contact (IRFC) (82%) at 3.2 m·s to more anterior foot contacts with an approximately equal distribution of IRFC (46%) and initial midfoot or forefoot contact (54%) at 6.2 ms-1 Approximately 44% of the IRFC runners showed atypical COP patterns with a fast anterior displacement of the COP along the lateral shoe margin. Apart from the different COP patterns, these atypical IRFC were also characterized by a significantly higher instantaneous vertical loading rate than the typical IRFC patterns. CONCLUSIONS: The IFCP distribution changes were due to intraindividual alterations in IFCP at higher speeds. That is, 45% of the runners made one or even two "transitions" toward a more anterior IFCP (and 3% shows some other type of transition between initial foot contact styles as speed increases). However, 52% of the runners remained with the same IFCP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1595-1603
Number of pages9
JournalMedicine and science in sports and exercise
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Center of pressure
  • Foot strike pattern
  • Loading rate
  • Midfoot strike
  • Rearfoot strike
  • Strike index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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