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4.27.2011

Sprint By Keeping The Feet Off The Ground

Sprint By Keeping The Feet Off The Ground  

Many assume that sprinting speed is set by the maximum force that the feet can generate against the ground.

If you measure the force propagated while running versus hopping on one foot, you will find that hopping produces about 30 percent more force into the ground than running.

Sprinters at top speed don’t use the maximum force possible with each stride even though it is clear they have the resources.

What is interesting is that when looking at athletes back peddling versus forward running, by measuring their foot-ground contact times, you may be surprised.  The amount of time the feet spend on surface contact whether running forwards or backwards is almost exactly the same.

Apparently, the limit to human speed seems to be imposed by foot-ground contact time, not the force the foot uses against the terrain.

The paradox is in sprinting faster the foot is required to spend more time on the track to obtain higher peak values and at the same time the foot must reduce surface contact time. 

The answer to running faster lies somewhere in what is called mass-specific forces.  Athletes can attain faster speeds by applying greater mass-specific forces to the running surface during shorter periods of foot-ground contact.

A new Penn State study looked at sprinters structure and surmised sprinters who had longer toes (mass-specific forces) were at advantage.  Whether this eventually turns out to be a trait with normative toe data or not, is probably unimportant, but it does certainly substantiate that the application of the forces is consequential.

The deal is this; there is a limit to the period of foot-ground contact.  The limit varies between individuals, muscle physiology, neurophysiology, anatomical structures, gait mechanics and they all come into play when running.

There is a lot of skill involved in running fast efficiently.  There are a lot of coaches and athletes working on finding ways to do it. The bottom line is this – Sprint Faster By Getting Those Feet Off The Ground .

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