: The intervention of 12 week gait retraining with minimalist shoes was established to examine its effect on impact forces, joint mechanics, and vertical stiffness during running. Methods
: Thirty male recreational runners were randomly assigned to the gait retraining + minimalist shoe (n
= 15, GR) and minimalist shoe (n
= 15, MIN) groups. The ground reaction force and marker trajectories were collected before and after intervention at a speed of 3.33 ± 5% m/s. Results
: A total of 17 participants (9 in the GR group and 8 in the MIN group) completed the training. After training, (1) the loading rate of both groups decreased significantly, and the loading rate of the GR group was lower than that of the MIN group. (2) The foot strike angle of the GR group decreased significantly after training, and the plantarflexion angle and hip joint angular extension velocity increased in both groups. (3) The moment of ankle joint increased in the GR group, and the stiffness of lower limbs was significantly improved in both groups. Conclusion
: The 12 week gait retraining with minimalist shoes converted rearfoot strikers into forefoot strikers with a rate of 78% (7/9). More importantly, such a combined program, compared to the training with only minimalist shoes, can avoid the peak impact force and decrease the loading rate more effectively, thus providing a potential means of reducing risk of running injury caused by impact forces. Moreover, the increased vertical stiffness of lower extremity after gait retraining may improve running economy and corresponding energy utilization. However, these observations also suggest that the sole use of minimalist footwear may have limited effects on reducing running-related impacts.
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