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Sprinter Feet

November 25, 2009

Elite sprinters may be helped by atypical foot anatomy.


When feet are made for sprinting. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Some track coaches say sprinters are born, not made. Penn State University researchers have found some truth in that. Kinesiologists Steve Piazza and Sabrina Lee compared the feet and ankles of top college sprinters to those of non-sprinters. Piazza says a key section of the Achilles’ tendon was shorter in the sprinters.

STEVE PIAZZA (Penn State University):
When your Achilles’ tendon attaches closer to your ankle joint, it also permits your muscle to shorten more slowly. And when that happens, the muscle is able to generate more force.

The sprinters also had long toes, which means that their feet stay in contact with the ground longer than average. And pushing harder and longer against the ground helps a sprinter accelerate at the start of a race. Piazza says this anatomy is even more pronounced in the cheetah, the best sprinter on Earth. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.