2017-11-22Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00958
The Influence of Footwear on the Modular Organization of Running
For most of our history, we predominantly ran barefoot or in minimalist shoes. The advent of modern footwear, however, might have introduced alterations in the motor control of running. The present study investigated shod and barefoot running under the perspective of the modular organization of muscle activation, in order to help addressing the neurophysiological factors underlying human locomotion. On a treadmill, 20 young and healthy inexperienced barefoot runners ran shod and barefoot at preferred speed (2.8 ± 0.4 m/s). Fundamental synergies, containing the time-dependent activation coefficients (motor primitives) and the time-invariant muscle weightings (motor modules), were extracted from 24 ipsilateral electromyographic activities using non-negative matrix factorization. In shod running, the average foot strike pattern was a rearfoot strike, while in barefoot running it was a mid-forefoot strike. In both conditions, five fundamental synergies were enough to describe as many gait cycle phases: weight acceptance, propulsion, arm swing, early swing and late swing. We found the motor primitives to be generally shifted earlier in time during the stance-related phases and later in the swing-related ones in barefoot running. The motor primitive describing the propulsion phase was significantly of shorter duration (peculiarity confirmed by the analysis of the spinal motor output). The arm swing primitive, instead, was significantly wider in the barefoot condition. The motor modules demonstrated analogous organization with some significant differences in the propulsion, arm swing and late swing synergies. Other than to the trivial absence of shoes, the differences might be deputed to the lower ankle gear ratio (and the consequent increased system instability) and to the higher recoil capabilities of the longitudinal foot arch during barefoot compared to shod running.
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