General Advice

Breaking Down & Speeding Up Ground Contact Times for Running


Peak athletic performance can be defined in several ways as every sport has different
demands. For example, high maximal power output may predict elite performance in an
anaerobic field and court athlete, but elite endurance athletes test better in running economy
and oxygen utilisation (Lorenz et al., 2013) . Often among most field sports, running speed is
considered one of the most vital factors of elite performance and although it is cogitated as a
genetic trait, it can be improved through training.

For the first part of this two-part series, we will establish why ground contact time is
important, following next week with the metrics around ground contact time and how we can
improve it.

So, with that, let’s take a deep dive into running, specifically ground contact time.

What is Ground Contact Time, and Why Does it Matter?

Ground contact time (GCT) is the time taken when the foot contacts the ground to when the
foot leaves the ground (Santos-Concejero et al., 2013) . Research has investigated its
importance as a measure for running times, in both sprinting & endurance-based sports.
Shorter GCT has been linked to faster times for sprinters & improved running economy in
endurance athletes (Majumdar & Robergs, 2011; Mooses et al., 2021) , and on the contrary,
longer GCT has shown increased demand on the body & slower running speeds (de Ruiter
et al., 2016; Moore et al., 2019) .

To further this, an increase in time spent on the ground results in a leakage of elastic
potential in your tendons. During running your tendons function as a recoil to assist with
running economy by producing force without muscular contractions, in essence, this is ‘free
energy’. Simply, tendons that are more elastic at high force production levels can improve
sprinting performance (Kubo et al., 2000) . In addition, stiffness is a factor that negates the
leakage of energy in musculotendinous units. There is a desired “leg-spring” stiffness value
at which potential elastic energy return is maximised, and this value should be specific to the
individual, considering differences in flexibility, alignment and strength capabilities. (Struzik
et al., 2021) .
Given this, if prioritising running speed is important for your personal athletic development, it
seems that measuring and training to improve GCT is a factor that should not be forgotten.

The Next Step
And with this, hopefully, you are more aware of the importance of ground contact time for
running fast! Watch this space next week, as we dissect the select components of ground
contact time: power, speed & technique.




de Ruiter, C. J., van Oeveren, B., Francke, A., Zijlstra, P., & van Dieen, J. H. (2016).
Running Speed Can Be Predicted from Foot Contact Time during Outdoor over
Ground Running. PLOS ONE, 11(9), e0163023.

Kubo, K., Kanehisa, H., Kawakami, Y., & Fukunaga, T. (2000, Feb). Elasticity of tendon
structures of the lower limbs in sprinters. Acta Physiol Scand, 168(2), 327-335.

Lorenz, D. S., Reiman, M. P., Lehecka, B. J., & Naylor, A. (2013). What performance
characteristics determine elite versus nonelite athletes in the same sport? Sports
health, 5(6), 542-547.

Majumdar, A., & Robergs, R. (2011, 09/01). The Science of Speed: Determinants of
Performance in the 100 m Sprint: A Response to Commentary. International Journal
of Sports Science and Coaching, 6, 479-494.

Moore, I. S., Ashford, K. J., Cross, C., Hope, J., Jones, H. S. R., & McCarthy-Ryan, M.
(2019, 2019-November-04). Humans Optimize Ground Contact Time and Leg
Stiffness to Minimize the Metabolic Cost of Running [Original Research]. Frontiers in
Sports and Active Living, 1.

Mooses, M., Haile, D. W., Ojiambo, R., Sang, M., Mooses, K., Lane, A. R., & Hackney, A. C.
(2021). Shorter Ground Contact Time and Better Running Economy: Evidence From
Female Kenyan Runners. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 35(2).

Santos-Concejero, J., Granados, C., Irazusta, J., Bidaurrazaga-Letona, I., Zabala-Lili, J.,
Tam, N., & Gil, S. M. (2013). Differences in ground contact time explain the less
efficient running economy in north african runners. Biology of sport, 30(3), 181-187.

Struzik, A., Karamanidis, K., Lorimer, A., Keogh, J. W. L., & Gajewski, J. (2021). Application
of Leg, Vertical, and Joint Stiffness in Running Performance: A Literature Overview.
Appl Bionics Biomech, 2021, 9914278.

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