SMU Study Finds Simpler Way to Explain Physics of Running

The research could have implications on shoe design, rehabilitation practices, and running performance.

Understanding the physics of running all comes down to the motion of two body parts, according to researchers at Southern Methodist University. 

Their findings published recently in the Journal of Experimental Biology, concluded that running can be explained in a lot simpler terms than scientists previously thought. After examining Olympic-caliber runners, they came up with a “two-mass model” that uses the lower leg that comes into contact with the ground and the sum total of the rest of the body to determine ground force. 

“Runners and other athletes can know the answer to the critical functional question of how they are contacting and applying force to the ground.”

LAURENCE RYAN

“The foot and the lower leg stop abruptly upon impact, and the rest of the body above the knee moves in a characteristic way,” said Kenneth Clark, SMU grad and assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at West Chester University, in a release.

“This new simplified approach makes it possible to predict the entire pattern of force on the ground — from impact to toe-off — with very basic motion data.”

The research could have implications on shoe design, injury prevention, rehabilitation practices, and running performance. 

“The approach opens up inexpensive ways to predict the ground reaction forces and tissue loading rates. Runners and other athletes can know the answer to the critical functional question of how they are contacting and applying force to the ground,” said Laurence Ryan, a physicist and research engineer at SMU’s Locomotor Performance Laboratory, in a release.


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