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Stergiou -

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Running over obstacles of sufficient height requires heel strike (HS) runners to make a transition in landing strategy to a forefoot (FF) strike, resulting in similar ground reaction force patterns to those observed while landing from a jump. Identification of the biomechanical variables that distinguish between the landing strategies may offer some insight into the reasons that the transition occurs. The purpose of this study was to investigate the difference in foot strike patterns and kinetic parameters of heel strike runners between level running and running over obstacles of various heights.


Ten heel strike subjects ran at their self-selected pace under seven different conditions: unperturbed running (no obstacle) and over obstacles of six different heights (10%, 12.5%, 15%, 17.5%, 20%, and 22.5% of their standing height). The obstacle was placed directly before a Kistler force platform. Repeated measures ANOVAs were performed on the subject means of selected kinetic parameters.


The statistical analysis revealed significant differences (P < 0.004) for all of the parameters analyzed. The evaluation of the center of pressure and the ground reaction forces indicated that the foot strike patterns were affected by the increased obstacle height. Between the 12.5% and 15% obstacle conditions, the group response changed from a heel strike to a forefoot strike pattern.


At height > 15%, the pattern was more closely related to the foot strike patterns found in jumping activities. This strategy change may represent a gait transition effected as a mechanism to protect against increased impact forces. Greater involvement of the ankle and the calf muscles could have assisted in attenuating the increased impact forces while maintaining speed after clearing the obstacle.


This is a non-final version of an article published in final form in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(1), p 123-129. DOI: 10.1097/00005768-200201000-00019

Journal Title

Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise





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