Frontiers in Physiology 10:506

Biomechanical Adaptations and Performance Indicators in Short Trail Running

Glenn Björklund, Mikael Swarén, Dennis-Peter Born, Thomas Stöggl

Department of Health Sciences, Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre, Mid Sweden University, Östersund


downhill running, foot forces, ground contact time, pacing, stride frequency


Our aims were to measure anthropometric and oxygen uptake (VO2) variables in the laboratory, to measure kinetic and stride characteristics during a trail running time trial, and then analyse the data for correlations with trail running performance. Runners (13 men, 4 women: mean age: 29 ± 5 years; stature: 179.5 ± 0.8 cm; body mass: 69.1 ± 7.4 kg) performed laboratory tests to determine VO2 max, running economy (RE), and anthropometric characteristics. On a separate day they performed an outdoor trail running time trial (two 3.5 km laps, total climb: 486 m) while we collected kinetic and time data. Comparing lap 2 with lap 1 (19:40 ± 1:57 min vs. 21:08 ± 2:09 min, P 25%) and least on flat terrain (CV < 10%). Overall stride cycle and ground contact time (GCT) were shorter in downhill than uphill sections (0.64 ± 0.03 vs. 0.84 ± 0.09 s; 0.26 ± 0.03 vs. 0.46 ± 0.90 s, both P < 0.001). Force impulse was greatest on uphill (248 ± 46 vs. 175 ± 24 Ns, P < 0.001) and related to GCT (r = 0.904, P < 0.001). Peak force was greater during downhill than during uphill running (1106 ± 135 vs. 959 ± 104 N, P < 0.01). Performance was related to absolute and relative VO2 max (P < 0.01), vertical uphill treadmill speed (P < 0.001) and fat percent (P < 0.01). Running uphill involved the greatest impulse per step due to longer GCT while downhill running generated the highest peak forces. VO2 max, vertical running speed and fat percent are important predictors for trail running performance. Performance between runners varied the most on downhills throughout the course, while pacing resembled a reversed J pattern. Future studies should focus on longer competition distances to verify these findings and with application of measures of 3D kinematics.

Moticon's Summary

The aim of this study was to investigate kinetics and stride characteristics during trail running as well as to relate trail running performance to anthropometric and physiological characteristics. Data collection was performed with seventeen participants. Anthropometric characteristics as well as VO2max and running economy were assessed during initial laboratory tests. Kinetics and stride characteristics were assessed during two 3.5km laps on a trail running course. Here, Moticon sensor insoles were used to collect kinetic data and stride characteristics. Results revealed different kinetics and stride characteristics for uphill and downhill running on the utilized course. Further VO2max, vertical running speed and body fat percentage were found to be crucial predictors for running performance in terms of lap time.

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