I got a call last week inviting me back to the Skeletal Biology lab as a test subject for their newest research project. The photo at the right shows me on the tread mill, after one of the data gathering sessions, with reflective, silver motion capture balls taped to my leg. Dan Lieberman and his lab are asking interesting questions and learning fundamental things about the mechanics of human motion. Strange as it may seem, no one before has looked in detail at what happens when your feet strike the ground.
If you haven't seen it yet, do check out their web site, Running Barefoot, where the folks at the Leiberman lab discuss the "biomechanics of foot strikes
and applications to running barefoot or in minimal footwear". As the subtitle makes clear, the title is a bit of a misnomer. The research and web site address foot strikes and how heel striking differs from forefoot striking, regardless of whether you're wearing shoes. Shoes are useful tools, as anyone who runs in Boston winters can attest.
We talked about my impressions from participating in the previous study and it dawned on me that perhaps I wasn't heel striking after all. While the heel of the shoe was contacting the ground before the front of my foot, my foot could well have been flexed downward, positioned to strike on the forefoot. The mechanics of this would be similar to that shown in the bottom pictures on this page (note how the bones align in the ankle and foot on the elite Kenyan runner) or in this video.
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