FootStriker: A ‘Shocking’ New Aid to Develop Running Technique

As a qualified running coach I appreciate how difficult it can be to change an individual’s running technique. Trying to convince/develop runners to land on the front of their feet rather than the back can be a tricky task. However, there is now another method available to coaches:

“CHANGING your running style can be tricky. Perhaps a jolt of electricity might get you up to speed?

A device called FootStriker uses a blast of electrical muscle stimulation to move a runner’s foot to the optimal angle just before landing.

More than half of all recreational runners pick up an injury each year, so having a good technique is important.

Professional athletes tend to land on the front of their feet, but recreational runners normally land heel-first – something many coaches discourage (although the link to injury is disputed).

To check which part of an athlete’s foot lands first, FootStriker uses a pressure sensor in a shoe’s insole. Whenever a heel strike is recorded during a run, a pad on the back of the calf jumps into action. With a little burst of electricity, the muscles are stimulated to correct the position of the foot for the next landing.

Six runners used the device in a test. During an initial unassisted 1-kilometre run, the average percentage of heel landings was 95 per cent.Over the next 3 km, when FootStriker was switched on, the proportion of heel landings plummeted to 16 per cent. For a final kilometre, the device was switched off, but heel landings continued to decrease – to 8 per cent – suggesting the runners had learned the new technique. And although the device was worn only on one leg, the change in style happened in both.

In comparison, a control group coached on howto improve their running style, only managed to reduce their heel strike average from 97 per cent to 80 per cent. “The same ideas could also be used for other sports with complex repeatable movements, like rowing,” says Florian Daiber at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Saarbrücken, one of the makers of the device.” (Revell, 2017, p.12).

References

Revell, T. (2017) Electric Shocks Tweak you into Running Better. New Scientist. 06 May 2017.

Hassan, M., Daiber, F., Weihr, F., Kosmalla, F. & Kruger, A. (2017) FootStriker: An EMS-based Foot Strike Assistant for Running. Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies, Vol. 1, No. 1, Article 2. Publication date: March 2017. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.dfki.de/web/forschung/publikationen/renameFileForDownload?filename=Footstriker-CameraReady-ACM.pdf&file_id=uploads_3084. [Accessed: 17 June, 2017].

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