Purpose: Given the high incidence of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) in runners, this study aimed to investigate the immediate effect of shoes with different minimalist indices (MI) on the mechanical loads of the patellofemoral joint. Methods: Fifteen healthy male rearfoot strike runners were recruited to complete overground running trials at 3.33 m/s (±5%) in two running shoe conditions (MI = 26% versus MI = 86%). The amount of ten Vicon infrared cameras (100 Hz) and two Kistler force plates (1000 Hz) were used to collect kinematic and ground reaction force (GRF) data simultaneously. Quadriceps strength, patellofemoral contact force, patellofemoral contact area, and patellofemoral contact stress were calculated. Results: No significant differences were observed in the impact force and the second peak of the vertical GRF between the two shoe conditions. Compared to wearing low-MI shoes, wearing high-MI shoes showed that the maximum flexion angle of the knee, the contact area of patellofemoral joint and the peak knee extension moment reduced significantly (p
< 0.01), and the peak patellofemoral contact force and stress decreased significantly (p
< 0.05). Conclusion: These findings suggest that wearing high-MI shoes significantly decreases the patellofemoral contact force and patellofemoral joint stress by reducing the moment of knee extension, thus effectively reducing the load of the patellofemoral joint during the stance phase of running and potentially lowering the risk of PFPS.
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