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    Foot Angle and Loading Rate during Running Demonstrate a Nonlinear Relationship
    Vertical loading rates are typically found to be lower in forefoot compared to rearfoot strikers, promoting the idea that forefoot striking is desirable and may reduce running injury risk. However, prior work using linear models has shown that foot inclination angle (FIA) at initial contact is a poor predictor of vertical loading rate, suggesting a more complex association exists. Purpose: To determine if a nonlinear model superiorly describes the relationship between FIA and average vertical loading rate (AVLR). Secondary analyses assessed the influence of sex and sport on the association between FIA and AVLR.Methods: Whole body kinematics and vertical ground reaction forces were collected for 170 healthy National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I athletes (97 males; 81 cross-country runners) during treadmill running at 2.68, 3.35, and 4.47 m·s−1. Foot inclination angle and AVLR were calculated for 15 strides and averaged across strides for each limb. Polynomial mixed effects models assessed linear and nonlinear trends in the relationship between FIA and AVLR across the entire sample and accounting for sex and sport participation. Results: Average vertical loading rate was lowest at the extremes of FIA (i.e., −15°, 20°), whereas greater AVLR were observed between 5° and 10°. The cubic model resulted in a significantly better fit than the linear model (P < 0.001). Average vertical loading rate was also more variable among FIA associated with rearfoot and midfoot strike than forefoot strike. Adding sex to the model did not influence model fit; though, controlling for sport minimally improved model fit. Conclusions: The relationship between FIA and AVLR is best represented by a cubic model. Consequently, FIA should be treated as a continuous variable. Reducing FIA into categories may misrepresent the relationship between FIA and other gait variables.
    Scopus© Citations 27  535