Sex and Stride Impact Joint Stiffness During Loaded Running

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This study determined changes in lower limb joint stiffness when running with body-borne load, and whether they differ with stride or sex. Twenty males and 16 females had joint stiffness quantified when running (4.0 m/s) with body-borne load (20, 25, 30, and 35 kg) and 3 stride lengths (preferred or 15% longer and shorter). Lower limb joint stiffness, flexion range of motion (RoM), and peak flexion moment were submitted to a mixed-model analysis of variance. Knee and ankle stiffness increased 19% and 6% with load (P < .001, P = .049), but decreased 8% and 6% as stride lengthened (P = .004, P < .001). Decreased knee RoM (P < .001, 0.9°–2.7°) and increased knee (P = .007, up to 0.12 N.m/kg.m) and ankle (P = .013, up to 0.03 N.m/kg.m) flexion moment may stiffen joints with load. Greater knee (P < .001, 4.7°–5.4°) and ankle (P < .001, 2.6°–7.2°) flexion RoM may increase joint compliance with longer strides. Females exhibited 15% stiffer knee (P = .025) from larger reductions in knee RoM (4.3°–5.4°) with load than males (P < .004). Stiffer lower limb joints may elevate injury risk while running with load, especially for females.