The present study investigated the relationships between changes in running economy (RE) and indirect muscle damage markers following downhill running (DHR) to test the hypothesis that decreased RE after DHR would be associated with decreases in muscle function. Forty-five young men ran downhill (−15%) for 30 min at the velocity corresponding to 70% of their peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak). Oxygen uptake (VO2) and other parameters possibly associated with RE (blood lactate concentration, perceived exertion, stride length and frequency) were measured during 5-minute level running at the velocity corresponding to 80%VO2peak before, immediately after and 1–3 days after DHR. Knee extensor maximal voluntary contraction torque (MVC), rate of torque development, vertical jump performance, muscle soreness and serum creatine kinase activity were assessed at the same time points. The values of the dependent variables were compared among time points by one-way ANOVAs followed by Bonferroni post-hoc tests when appropriate. Pearson’s correlation tests were used to examine relationships between changes in VO2 (RE parameter) and changes in muscle damage parameters. VO2 during the level run increased (p < 0.05) immediately after DHR (18.3 ± 4.6%) and sustained until 2 days post-DHR (11.7 ± 4.2%). MVC decreased (p < 0.05) immediately (−21.8 ± 6.1%) to 3 days (−13.6 ± 5.9%) post-DHR, and muscle soreness developed 1–3 days post-DHR. The magnitude of changes in VO2 did not significantly (p < 0.05) correlate with the changes in muscle damage makers (r = −0.02–0.13) nor stride length (r = −0.05) and frequency (r = −0.05). The absence of correlation between the changes in VO2 and MVC suggests that strength loss was not a key factor affecting RE.
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