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Sensing insole helps runners change footstrike

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Researchers in Hong Kong have developed a sensing insole designed to help runners modify their footstrike pattern.

Changing footstrike — how your foot hits the ground — can help avoid common running injuries such as plantar fasciitis, which results in pain in the heel and the bottom of the foot, as well as Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures.

Previous research has shown that runners in cushioned footwear tend to land on their heel — known as a rearfoot strike — while those who run barefoot or in minimal running shoes are more likely to have a forefoot or midfoot strike, with decreased impact transient and stress on the hip and knee.

Now, researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) have developed a mobile biofeedback device for footstrike pattern modification, supporting injury prevention and rehabilitation in runners.

Biomechanical analysis suggests that midfoot strike is an optimal pattern, but it is difficult for runners to attain on their own, the university explained. The new device provides real-time information about footstrike patterns over the whole running session and feedback through a specially designed smartphone app.

In injury prevention, runners can use the information to modify their gait mechanics. It can also be used in rehabilitation, with runners who are recovering from injury learning more about their footstrike pattern and how to avoid overloading particular parts of the body.

According to PolyU, the new device is low-cost when compared to a motion capturing device or pressure sensors.