EWU Professor Awarded Research Grant

June 8, 2023

Kristyne Wiegand, assistant professor of exercise science at Eastern, recently received a $5,000 Junior Faculty Research grant from the American Society of Biomechanics, an organization of scholars and industry leaders that works to advance biomechanics as a basic and applied science. 

“It’s super exciting and validating, especially with being newer in the field and younger in general,” says Wiegand. “So, it was really nice to see that I’m on a good path.” 

Wiegand plans to use the award to examine the mechanical, physiological and psychological aspects of musculoskeletal injuries, particularly running-related injuries such as plantar fasciitis, a painful condition that impacts an estimated one in ten people at some point in their lives.

“It’s an injury that impacts a lot of people, and not just someone’s sport performance but also their daily life,” she says. 

With the help of students majoring in exercise science, Wiegand will test to determine whether different forms of footwear might make a difference for runners suffering from plantar fasciitis.

Women who run and have plantar fasciitis will be recruited for the study. They’ll be given a pair of shoes to run in for twelve weeks, and their mechanics will be measured at the beginning and end of that timeframe. The shoes they will receive will be either highly cushioned or have standard cushions, and the volunteers will be randomly assigned to one of the shoe types.

“We will pre-test at the beginning of the three months. We’ll have the volunteers run in their own shoes and then we’ll look at their movement patterns and their loading mechanics,” Wiegand says. “So, we’ll see how much force they’re putting into their feet and how that force is distributed.”

In between the testing sessions, the runners will run in their both their old and new shoes and provide weekly mileage and pain reports. Wiegand is hoping to see if the shoes can help decrease pain and if any changes in pain are associated with changes in mechanics.

Wiegand’s idea to research this condition stemmed from work she was doing for her dissertation while earning her PhD at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She was originally looking into knee injuries but discovered that plantar fasciitis, the third most common running injury overall, was an area in need of greater scholarly attention

Despite its pervasiveness, Wiegand says, researchers do not fully understand how plantar fasciitis develops and progresses. Research does suggest, however, that females have a greater likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis, caused by an increased stress on their typically thinner plantar fascias.

Wiegand hopes her and her students’ findings may lead to an improved understanding of the causes of chronic plantar fasciitis in general, while also helping to provide alternative treatment options for female runners.