How Can Both Barefoot Running and Hokas Reduce Knee Pain?

For full article click here How Can Both Barefoot Running and Hokas Reduce Knee Pain?

I occasionally experience pain along the outer margin of my left kneecap. It’s never severe enough to keep me from running, and it seems to come and go without much explanation. My most recent bout seemed to crop up after a run in the new Mizuno Sayonara – I can’t say for sure that the shoe had anything to do with it, but it has a much higher heel than I’m used to and I could tell that it was altering my gait a bit.

Last Saturday on a 13 mile run I was playing with my stride to see how it would affect the mild ache in my knee. It seemed that when I relaxed all of the muscles below my knee the ache would subside. If I forced a forefoot strike with a slightly stiffened leg it also seemed to help. However, if I really forced dorsiflexion of my foot prior to ground contact via contraction of the tibialis anterior the pain seemed to perk up. These are the fun things I like to do while running – figuring out how to make my knee hurt! I spent a good long time thinking about possible mechanisms that might be at play to cause these changes.

Somewhat fortuitously, a journal article abstract arrived in my inbox this morning from Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise that was titled “Increasing Running Step Rate Reduces Patellofemoral Joint Forces.” The paper was by a team from the University of Wisconsin led by Rachel Lenhart – it’s a group that I’ve written about before here on Runblogger (here and here), and I have found their previous studies to be fascinating.

In the current study, the team filmed 30 runners on an instrumented force treadmill, and used a biomechanical model to estimate forces through a number of muscles, tendons, and joints in the legs. Runners were filmed at their preferred step rate, and also at 90% (lower cadence) and 110% (higher cadence) of their preferred step rate to see how altering cadence affected these forces. It’s important to note that forces were estimated via modeling and not by actual sensors in the tissues (that would be a tough study to do!), so that is always something to keep in mind in a study like this – results are only as good as the model (and I don’t have the expertise to evaluate the model they used).

What the research team found was very interesting. Here is a list of key findings taken from their results:

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