Stride and Step Length Obtained with Inertial Measurement Units during Maximal Sprint Acceleration

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During sprint acceleration, step length, step rate, ground contact, and airtime are key variables for coaches to guide the training process and technical development of their athletes. In the field, three of these variables are easily obtained with inertial measurement units (IMUs), but, unfortunately, valid estimates of step length with IMUs currently are limited to low speeds (<50% max). A simple method is proposed here to derive step length during maximal sprint acceleration, using IMUs on both feet and two timing gates only. Mono-exponential velocity-time functions are fitted to the 30-m (split) and 60-m times, which in combination with IMU-derived step durations yield estimates of step length. To validate this approach, sixteen well-trained athletes with IMUs on the insteps of both feet executed two 60-m maximal sprints, starting from a three-point position. As a reference, step lengths were determined from video data. The reference step lengths combined with IMU-derived step durations yielded a time series of step velocity that confirmed the appropriateness of a mono-exponential increase of step velocity (R2 ≥ 0.96). The comparison of estimated step lengths to reference measurements showed no significant difference (p > 0.05) and acceptable agreement (root mean square error, RMSE = 8.0 cm, bias ± Limits of Agreement = -0.15 ± 16 cm). Step length estimations further improved (RMSE = 5.7 cm, -0.16 ± 11 cm) after smoothing the original estimated step lengths with a third order polynomial function (R2 = 0.94 ± 0.04). In conclusion, during maximal sprint acceleration, acceptable estimates of stride and step length were obtained from IMU-derived step times and 30-m (split) and 60-m sprint times.

Original languageEnglish
Article number202
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalSports (Basel, Switzerland)
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2019


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