Energy cost and kinematics of level, uphill and downhill running: Fatigue-induced changes after a mountain ultramarathon

Gianluca Vernillo, Aldo Savoldelli, Andrea Zignoli, Spyros Skafidas, Alessandro Fornasiero, Antonio La Torre, Lorenzo Bortolan, Barbara Pellegrini, Federico Schena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to determine whether the fatigue induced by a mountain ultramarathon (MUM) led to changes in energy cost and kinematic during level and graded running. Pre- and post-race, 14 ultratrail runners ran on a level, uphill (5%) and downhill (5%) treadmill at 10 km · h-1. Kinematic data were acquired using a photocell system. Post-race, the downhill energy cost increased by 13.1% (P <0.001). No change was noted in level and uphill running. Duty factor and stride frequency were increased, whereas swing time, cycle time and stride length were decreased in all conditions (P <0.05). Contact time was increased and the rate of force generation was decreased only in the uphill and downhill conditions (P <0.05). Positive correlations were observed between performance time and the pre- to post-changes in the energy cost of level (r = 0.52, P = 0.04) and uphill running (r = 0.50, P = 0.04). MUM-induced fatigue resulted in physiological and spatiotemporal changes, though the response to fatigue varied considerably between running conditions. These changes resulted in a significant increment only in the downhill energy cost. Incorporating downhill locomotion in the training programmes of ultratrailers may help to improve performance-related physiological and biomechanical parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1998-2005
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Energy cost
  • Fatigue
  • Kinematic
  • Performance
  • Running
  • Ultraendurance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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