Over the past few years I’ve covered a number of technologies that have aimed to move beyond merely recording our activity levels and towards providing constructive feedback in real-time. Some of these are helping with coaching support, such as instructing the user to work harder, whilst others provide technical feedback on form and technique.
Nowhere is such a requirement as urgent as with runners, as those with poor, heel-based technique suffer roughly twice as many injuries as those with robust, forefront techniques. New research from Saarland University wanted to see whether technology, and technology alone, could rectify matters.
“An effective analysis of running technique can only be provided by professionals or expert coaches using slow-motion videos. Amateur athletes have no access to this. However, as more and more people run long distances, exposing themselves to the risk of knee injuries and stress fractures, answering this question is more necessary than ever before,” the authors say.
The team developed a product, known as Footstriker, that is worn on the body and provides electro-stimulation (EMS) to the runner to provide live feedback regarding their technique. These painless surges come via electrodes that are stuck to the calf of the runner. Meanwhile, in the shoes pressure sensors are placed inside insoles to detect whether the runner is striking with the heel, middle or forefoot.
The system has been tested on a relatively small sample of 18 runners aged between 24 and 36, and their research showed that the technology did indeed lead to improvements in technique over a 3km course, and especially an improvement compared to results achieved with a personal trainer.
“After the run with Footstriker, we interviewed the runners. The result: They could describe the new, correct movement in their own words, although we had not provided any information about it. Obviously, they had learned it only with the help of the running assistant,” the authors conclude.
Check out the video below to see more about the research.