Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2023) 22, 512 - 525   DOI:

Research article
An Acute Transition from Rearfoot to Forefoot Strike does not Induce Major Changes in Plantarflexor Muscles Activation for Habitual Rearfoot Strike Runners
Bálint Kovács1,2, , Leonidas Petridis3, János Négyesi4, Örs Sebestyén2, Ye Jingyi1, Jingfeng Zhang5, Yaodong Gu1, , József Tihanyi2
Author Information
1 Ningbo University, Ningbo, China
2 Department of Kinesiology, Hungarian University of Sport Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
3 Research Centre for Sport Physiology, Hungarian University of Sport Sciences, Hungary
4 Division of Biomedical Engineering for Health and Welfare, Tohoku University Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, Sendai, Japan
5 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, HwaMei Hospital, Ningbo, China

Bálint Kovács
✉ Faculty of Sports Science, Ningbo University, Ningbo China
Publish Date
Received: 23-02-2023
Accepted: 14-08-2023
Published (online): 01-09-2023
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Footstrike pattern has received increased attention within the running community because there is a common belief that forefoot strike running (FFS) is more advantageous (i.e., improve performance and reduce running injuries) than rearfoot strike running (RFS) in distance running. Literature reports suggest greater knee joint flexion magnitude and initial knee angle during stance in FFS compared with RFS running We examined the EMG activation of the triceps surae muscles during an acute transition from RFS to FFS strike. We tested the hypothesis that due to larger knee flexion in FFS the gastrocnemius muscles possibly decrease their EMG activity because muscle fascicles operate under unfavorable conditions. Fourteen competitive healthy middle- and long-distance runners who were habitual RFS runners ran on a treadmill at three speeds: 12, 14, and 16 km·h-1. Each running speed was performed with both FFS and RFS patterns. Lower limb kinematics in the sagittal plane and normalized electromyography (EMG) activity of medial gastrocnemius proximal, middle and distal regions, lateral gastrocnemius and soleus muscles were compared between footstrike patterns and running speeds across the stride cycle. Contrary to our expectations, the knee joint range of motion was similar in FFS and RFS running. However, the sagittal plane ankle joint motion was greater (p < 0.01) while running with FFS, resulting in a significantly greater muscle-tendon unit lengthening (p < 0.01) in FFS compared with RFS running. In addition, medial and lateral gastrocnemius showed higher EMG activity in FFS compared with RFS running in the late swing and early stance but only for a small percentage of the stride cycle. However, strike patterns and running speed failed to induce region-specific activation differences within the medial gastrocnemius muscle. Overall, well-trained RFS runners are able to change to FFS running by altering only the ankle joint kinematics without remarkably changing the EMG activity pattern.

Key words: Running biomechanics, forefoot strike pattern, rearfoot strike pattern, EMG, joint kinematics, muscle mechanics

           Key Points
  • Acute transition to forefoot strike running style from rearfoot running style can be performed changing mainly the ankle joint range of motion, but not definitely the knee joint range of motion.
  • Increased MTU lengthening during FFS running is not paired with elevated EMG activity indicating similar muscle tension as in RFS running, hence the additional lengthening probably occurs in the tendon and muscle evenly.
  • Long-term adaptations to habitual rear-foot strike may explain the absence of changes in knee joint kinematics and EMG activation after an acute transition from rearfoot to forefoot strike.
  • Both footstrike patterns (FFS and RFS), or the examined running speeds failed to induce region-specific EMG activation differences within the MG muscle.
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