It has been the norm for decades to perform traditional gait assessment and retraining efforts on a motorized treadmill. When considering previous gait retraining research, and the recent assertions that running on a curved non-motorized treadmill can stimulate a beneficial shift in running gait, it is logical that, if an athlete runs on a well-engineered curved non-motorized treadmill, their gait pattern will change.
The Department of Exercise at the University of South Carolina, led by Andrew Hatchett(1), challenged this assumption with a recently published study The Effect of a Curved Non-Motorized Treadmill on Running Gait Length, Imbalance and Stride Angle. The study determined if running on the curved non-motorized treadmill, the TrueForm Runner, influences running gait and if the changes then carry over to running on a traditional motorized treadmill.
Sixteen healthy college-aged participants volunteered to have their gait analyzed by Optogait analysis equipment while running on a clinical-grade GE 2000 Series traditional non-motorized flat surface. The TrueForm Runner non-motorized treadmill, which has the least steep incline and most subtle curve of all non-motorized treadmills, was the curved manual treadmill used.
After familiarization and a warm-up, each subject completed five 4-min bouts of running, alternating between the Traditional Motorized Treadmill (TMT) (3 Rounds 1st, 3rd, 5th) and Curved Non-Traditional Treadmill (CNT)(2 Rounds 2nd and 4th). Variables measured on each round of the motorized treadmill included step length (m), stride length (m), imbalance score (%), and stride angle (◦ ).
The study revealed that running on a TrueForm Runner for 4 minutes resulted in significant changes in all aspects of the gait characteristics measured. These findings suggest that running on the TrueForm Runner can positively influence running gait, encouraging the user to run with a more mechanically efficient gait. The study also found certain aspects of a runner’s gait, such as foot strike pattern, stride length, stride angle, and imbalance, maybe quickly retrained without advanced, costly laboratory equipment or thousands of repetitions and drills.
STEP LENGTH AND STRIDE LENGTH
This study shows the stride length and step length decreased with greater exposure to the TrueForm Runner. Step and stride length are factors linked to running impact (2-4). A reduction in stride length has been shown to reduce impact peaks and loading rates experienced by runners (5-7). As a result, the TrueForm may be a factor in injury and risk mitigation and promote healthy recovery.
The research shows that running on the TrueForm Runner decreases stride angle in a statistically significant manner. Stride angle is a marker of the athlete’s ability to efficiently maximize swing time and minimize contact time with effective energy transfer during ground contact (5). The decrease seen in the stride angle and is indicative of better running economy.
Reduction in imbalance, or asymmetry, resulting from running on the TrueForm Runner was significant after the initial exposure to the TrueForm Runner. A lack of symmetry, differences in muscle strength, motion, flexibility, balance, and mechanics between sides of the body, is often highlighted as a risk factor for injury. The imbalance measure used in this research is an indicator of running ‘asymmetry’ between the right and left foot. A more symmetric running gait indicates a more balanced, efficient athlete, with a better running economy.
When examining the data, one can readily see a great decrease in the imbalance score from TMT-1 to TMT-2, as compared with that from TMT-1 to TMT-3. There was an increase in the imbalance score from TMT-2 to TMT-3. A possible explanation for this may be the fatigue of the participants at this stage of the study.
(1) Authors: Andrew Hatchett *, Kaitlyn Armstrong, Brian Parr, Mallory Crews and Charlie Tant Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of South Carolina Aiken, Aiken, SC 29801, USA; firstname.lastname@example.org
(K.A.); email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org (M.C.); email@example.com (C.T.)
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