Muscle tuning and preferred movement path - a paradigm shift

Benno Nigg, Maurice Mohr, Sandro R. Nigg


In the last 40 years, the scientific debate around running injuries and running shoes has been dominated by two paradigms, the ‘impact’ and the ‘pronation’ paradigms. However, the development of running shoe technologies aimed at reducing impact forces and pronation has not led to a decline of running-related injuries. This article recommends to abandon the ‘impact’ and ‘pronation’ paradigms due to a lack of biomechanical and epidemiological evidence and instead suggests a shift to new paradigms: ‘Muscle tuning’ and the ‘preferred movement path’. These paradigms represent new approaches to understanding the biomechanical patterns of each individual runner and how they are controlled by the neuromuscular system. Experimental evidence in support of the ‘muscle tuning’ and ‘preferred movement path’ paradigms are presented and discussed regarding their relevance for running performance, injuries, and footwear. Finally, this paper proposes that the concept of ‘functional groups’ should be used and further developed to overcome the challenge that groups of individuals respond differently to footwear interventions. First, groups of individuals who behave similarly (functional groups) should be identified. Second, running shoes should be selected to match the characteristics of the identified functional groups in order to optimize the beneficial effects of running shoes for improving running performance and reducing the risk of running injuries.

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