It’s all about the force

Reporter Sarah DiGiullo with the online news magazine The Huffington Post covered the research of Peter Weyand and the SMU Locomotor Laboratory. Weyand, who is Glenn Simmons Professor of Applied Physiology and professor of biomechanics in the Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, is the director of the Locomotor Lab.

Other authors on the study were Laurence Ryan, a physicist and research engineer in the lab, and
Kenneth Clark , previously with the lab and now an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at West Chester University in West Chester, Penn.

The three have developed a concise approach to understanding the mechanics of human running. The research has immediate application for running performance, injury prevention, rehab and the individualized design of running shoes, orthotics and prostheses. The work integrates classic physics and human anatomy to link the motion of individual runners to their patterns of force application on the ground — during jogging, sprinting and at all speeds in between.

The Huffington Post article, “Researchers reveal the mechanics of running is simpler than thought – and it could revolutionize shoe design,” published Feb. 13, 2017.

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By Sarah DiGiullo
The Huffington Post

When it comes to race day, runners may have favorite moisture-wicking gear, a stopwatch and tunes to help get that coveted personal record.

But physicists say running at your top speed may actually be a lot simpler. It all comes down to the force of your foot striking the ground ― and that’s about it.

After studying the physics behind some of the world’s fastest runners, researchers came up with a new model they say could make anyone faster. It may help injured runners recover faster, too.

The researchers developed an equation that calculates two forces: The total force of the shin, ankle and foot striking the ground, and the total force of the rest of the body striking the ground. The method, which they detailed in an article published recently in the Journal of Experimental Biology, can predict how fast an athlete will run.

“We’ve known for quite some time that fast people are fast because they’re able to hit the ground harder in relation to how much they weigh,” explained the study’s co-author, Peter Weyand, director of the Locomotor Performance Laboratory at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

But Weyand and his team were looking to better understand why it was that some people are able to hit the ground harder than others. The new equation makes the answer a lot clearer, with fewer measurements than previous models.

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