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Heel Strike Running Or Forefoot Running?
We are often asked at Body in Motion Physiotherapy if a runner should land on their heel to midfoot.
More and more research is coming out that supports forefoot or midfoot landing.
Our ancestors ran for millions of years barefoot landing in the midfoot, as many Kenyans do today with little or no foot, ankle and shin problems. Additionally, lab research analyzing running kinetics also demonstrates that there may be less impact and fewer injuries sustained with forefoot/midfoot running.
So what is research?
Most midfoot or forefoot landings don’t generate the sudden huge impact that heel strike does. As a result, mid/forefoot runners don’t need the generous heel cushioning that modern shoes provide.
Studies show that 30% of runners injure themselves each year (mainly shin splints, knee pain, Achilles problems and plantar fasciitis) and our data at Body in Motion Bournemouth physiotherapy confirms this too.
Many runners do heel strikes and as long as they are not injured, this is not a problem. However, some evidence may suggest that landing on the heel is similar to applying the brakes. There may be some benefit to a runner’s speed by landing in the midfoot and thus less injury.
Should I change?
If you run well with no issues, I would be hesitant to switch.
However, if you’re just starting out or have been injured repeatedly and know you need to improve your biomechanics, make the changes slowly and patiently. Start by getting a video analysis of your gait to see what problems may be there. Sometimes other back, hip, or knee issues need to be addressed before the feet are modified.
At first, you are likely to experience muscle pain in your calf, lower leg, and feet. If you progress too quickly, you risk injuring your muscles or tendons. Sports massage will allow your muscles and tendons to adapt more quickly to any changes in biomechanics.
The heel strikes the foot and the lower leg comes to rest on impact while the rest of the body continues to drop above the knee. Additionally, the effective mass is approximately the foot plus the lower leg, which equates to 6.8% of total body mass in runners measured by Lieberman et al. (2010).
However, with the forefoot running:
The forefoot strike produces a very slow increase in force without a distinct impact transient. There is essentially NO transient impact in a forefoot strike. The same goes for some (but not all) midfoot strikes. Even on hard surfaces, runners who strike with the forefoot have 7 times lower impact forces than runners who strike with the heel Lieberman et al. (2010). A heel strike is equivalent to someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer using up to 3 times your body weight. These impacts add up, since you hit the ground almost 1000 times per mile!
Many running shoes make heel strikes comfortable and less hurtful because they dramatically slow the rate of loading, but they don’t eliminate impact transients. If you have repeated running injuries, book a video analysis or ask your physiotherapist for advice.
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#Heel #Strike #Running #Forefoot #Running