Footstrike Debate

FIRST OFF, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FULL FOOT, MIDFOOT, & HEEL STRIKING?

  • Good heel strikers first contact the surface with the outside of the heel and roll inwards, slightly loading the arch and then forward to toe off somewhere in between the big & middle toe.
  • Effective midfoot strikers land with the outside of the foot just behind where the little toe attaches to the foot and then load or flex rearward until the heel touches briefly.  Then the foot also rolls slightly inward, loads, and comes off those first three toes.
  • Decent full foot strikers look like they apply the entire lateral part of the foot from behind the little toe to the heel at the same time, but there will be a winner in terms of first pressure (heel or mid) and the shoe evens that out.

In terms of the footstrike debate, many people argue whether midfoot or heel striking is better.

Therefore, which way is the correct way to run: midfoot or heel striking?

There’s a good chance you’ve heard that midfoot striking is the correct way, but according to an article by Bobby McGee,  published by USA Triathlon this summer, at the moment, there is no research that proves either one is better.  (Note: Haile Gebrselassie, arguably the greatest distance runner of all time, altered his foot strike from mid foot to heel when he failed to transition from 10,000 meters to the marathon with the same degree of success; he ended up being the first person to break 2 hours, 4 minutes for a marathon).

Although there is no evidence proving that one is better than the other, it is clear that in shorter distances (up to about a 10k), FASTER runners tend to run with their MIDFOOT STRIKING.  Runners at SLOWER speeds (or your novice and maybe even intermediate runners) tend to HEEL STRIKE first in distances over a mile.  In addition, good runners also tend to HEEL STRIKE when they run slow and long.

IT’S NOT NECESSARY TO TRY TO SWITCH FROM HEEL TO MIDFOOT STRIKIING:

“Runners who habitually run with shoes (with a heel strike), who try to learn to run on their midfoot, reduce the shock around their knee, BUT this shock shows up as increased stress in their plantar fasciae, Achilles’ tendon, and calf muscles.”  This is the main reason why I would not suggest anyone (who is aware that they heel strike) to try to switch to a midfoot strike. It’s likely to end in some type of injury.  In my opinion, you run the way you run.  Leave it at that.  If you are a seasoned, very experienced runner, or working closely with a trainer in regards to your running gait, it’s something you could try, but in most cases I don’t believe its necessary.  According to McGee, most of the time an athletes increased awareness of how his or her foot should land will not lead to effective change.

Being a runner myself, and having quite a few clients that are runners, this question has come up numerous times.  Hopefully this will help clear the air for all you other runners curious about this as well! : )

Reference: The Footstrike Debate by Bobby McGee

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