The Optimal Biomechanics Of Sprinting & Running – part 1


Firstly let me say that sprinting or running does not start and end with ground contact and it is not the be all and end all of running – but we have to begin somewhere. 

The foot ground contact throughout the running phase is important for both increasing acceleration and maintaining momentum. We need to be generating as much forward power as possible with as little up and down motion of the body as possible I.e. reduced impact / braking forces  

For this to be optimised, the foot contact with the ground is made with the forefoot – sprinters all aim to land on their forefoot. This is because it allows the angle of the legs to continue to create forward momentum. When done correctly better times are achieved  while poor execution of technique leads to lost momentum as shown in fig 1 & 2 below



In figs 1 – 2  the 2 sprinters shown highlight the differences between forefoot landing and mid foot landing 

The 2 main differences are  

  • The large breaking forces associated with the midfoot landing requires increased shock absorption at the knee I.e. increased bending of the knee – 163′ to 146′ = 17′ in total versus 150′ to 140′ = 10′ with fore foot landing. This means increased muscle work for the midfoot landing 
  • The increased breaking forces also mean that the ground contact time (amount of time the foot is on the ground) is longer. Note how much quicker the fore foot landing has moved into the forward / push phase 


The problem with this in distance running is that the local foot and calf muscles will fatigue quite quickly and cannot sustain the load over time. Therefore we need a way to use the larger muscles of the upper leg to help the lower leg when running.  


The answer to this is to have the leg moving backwards before it hits the ground as in fig 3 below.  



I’ll discuss how to achieve this in your running in part 2 (to follow) and show you a couple of exercises I like to use to help incorporate into your running  


Leo Neenan GSR 

Full Practicing member of BASRaT  

British Association of Sports Rehabilitators and Therapists 

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