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Investigating the relationship between movement-variability and injury in running. Joint PhD Programme with La Trobe University, Australia

   Sport and Physical Activity Research Centre

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  Dr Ben Heller  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Running is a very popular recreational activity. However, 50% of runners experience injury annually, and 25% of runners are injured at any given time, with most of these injuries being overuse injuries of the knee, ankle/foot, hamstring and shank. It is commonly believed that both performance and injury risk can be influenced by running footwear, with recent years featuring many new footwear designs. Research into the ability of footwear to prevent running injuries is contradictory, with some shoe types shown to be both effective and ineffective in different studies. The variability of movement (step to step differences) is often treated as "noise" in biomechanical studies. However, it reflects the ability of the body to adapt to different situations. Excessively high or low variability is often associated with injury, and different shoe types have been shown to affect variability. This study will investigate if variability is an important factor in the relationship between footwear and injury.

Recent developments in wearable technology allow measurement of running motion outside of the laboratory, and we have access to two rich datasets, one of over 100 runners performing a 5k run in the same outdoor environment, the second dataset has many thousands of runners each completing multiple runs in varying terrains and shoes (billions of steps). The project will initially explore these datasets to investigate patterns of variability and their relationship to factors such as terrain and fatigue. These relationships will be further explored by one-off studies in the laboratory and outside, and finally we will conduct a one-year (prospective) study of 100 uninjured runners monitoring their shoe use, variability and injury incidence. Through this we hope to discover new methods to predict and avoid running-related overuse injuries.

This project has a supervision panel of international experts in biomechanics, movement variability, wearable sensors, sports analytics and data science. The successful applicant will benefit from leveraging existing relationships with our sporting and industrial partners and a 9 month placement at La Trobe University in Australia.

Candidate Requirements

Applicants should have a strong undergraduate degree (2.1 or above) and/or a relevant Masters qualification in a related field, or be able to demonstrate efficacy in this area. .

Although the project will be based primarily at Sheffield Hallam the student will also complete a period of research at La Trobe in Australia. 

How to apply

We strongly recommend you contact the lead academic, Dr Ben Heller [Email Address Removed] to discuss your application.

Start date for studentship: February 2023

Interviews are scheduled for: TBC

For information on how to apply and more about the Joint Programme with La Trobe, Australia, please click Global partnership: Joint PhD programme with La Trobe University, Australia | Sheffield Hallam University (

Your application should be emailed to [Email Address Removed] by the closing date of 31st October 2022.

Funding Notes

This is a competition-funded project. We are inviting applications to a number of different projects and are offering up to 3 scholarships which will be awarded to the strongest applicants overall.
These scholarships are open to Home, EU and International applicants. However, the scholarships pay tuition fees at Home levels only, and students who are liable for the International fee rate will be expected to provide the difference between the Home and International fees from another funding source.


Quirino, Juliana, et al. "Runners with a history of injury have greater lower limb movement regularity than runners without a history of injury." Sports Biomechanics (2021): 1-13.
Gruber, Allison H., et al. "Monitoring gait complexity as an indicator for running-related injury risk in collegiate cross-country runners: a proof-of-concept study." Frontiers in sports and active living 3 (2021): 630975.

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