London, Oct 14 : The next time you go for a long distance run, make it a point to measure your heel, for a new study has revealed that the shorter it is, the more competitive runner will be.
With the help of the mathematical model of the leg, the research team led by Melanie Scholz of the VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands studied the effects of heel length and long-distance running ability.
They analysed if running efficiency depends on how much elastic energy gets stored in the Achilles tendon, which runs down the back of the ankle, attaching the calf muscle to the heel.
While running when a runner lands on a foot, the tendon gets compressed, storing energy that then gets released as the foot is lifted off the ground, aiding the runner.
During the study, the researchers measured heel length as the average of the horizontal distance between the anklebone and the Achilles tendon on the inside and outside of the leg.
The model showed that when this average was shorter, the more energy gets stored in the tendon.
For further analysis, her team monitored 15 professional runners as they ran on a treadmill.
This experiment also showed that those with shorter heels had lower oxygen intake, indicating greater running efficiency.
"If I were to bet my money on any athlete, I'd definitely have a look at their feet first," New Scientist quoted Scholz, as saying.
The findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Biology.