Thursday, March 29, 2012

Foot Strike Controversy

What is your thought on the whole heel vs. mid-foot vs. forefoot strike topic?

One of the admins of a running group I help coach just posted an article on our Facebook page that generally talks about heel striking as a bad move and that you should alter it in order to avoid injury.  Following that right up, a member of the group who is a running coach and physical therapistreplied arguing that heel striking has never been correlated to higher injury risk and she used a study to support her claim.

The study I believe she used was Hasegawa, 2007 (she only said "a 2007 study," but the stats she uses match up).  This study looked at elite athletes at the 15km mark of a marathon and classified everyone as either heel, mid-foot, or forefoot striker.  Then, it compared that to ground contact time to foot strike and finish time to find any significant correlations.  Overall, it showed that heel striking had a much longer ground contact time and correlated to a slower running pace. 

She simply used the fact that 74% of the field was heel striking at the 15km mark as her evidence that heel striking is perfectly okay.  She ignored, however, that as you limit the field to faster runners, that percentage decreases and mid-foot increases and that the study never talks about foot strike in the confines of injury.  

So I responded correcting her conclusion on the study and using another study - Daoud, 2012 - as counter to her argument.  The article was also brought up on Runner's World

This study retrospectively analyzed collegiate cross country athletes, their foot strike patterns, and their injury history.  Overall, 74% of the athletes had a moderate to severe injury throughout the year and of the injured athletes, those with a heel strike has double the injury rate independent of sex, race distance, and weekly mileage.  However, the study does not point out a cause of injury, simply a correlation. 


1.  What are your thoughts on the foot strike controversy?
I personally believe a move away from heel striking is a move towards a lower injury rate.  

2.  Have you ever attempted changing or simply analyzing your foot strike?
I spent a lot of 2011 changing over to a mid-foot strike.  

Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 


JohnP said...

I think you all need to just shut up and run.

Your run technique is what it is.

Nelly said...

I think the running shoes that you wear have a lot to do with whether you heel or midfoot strike. If you try to midfoot strike in shoes that aren't meant to midfoot strike, you might get injured. Buying a lower heel drop shoe seems to allow for you to midfoot strike more naturally, so this is where you should be doing midfoot strike.

I hopefully will get a pair of Brooks Pures or Newtons to transition to midfoot striking gradually, since it seems more natural based on how we should be running.

Gashsam said...

Risking flaring up the discussion here but.... I ran heel strike as I was told this was the right way to run and ended up with a year long ITB issue. Changed coaches and advice, went back to basics (30sec run/30sec walk AND changed my form at the same time which may have helped the ITB also)and started fore foot striking as it was a more natural feel. Take your shoes off and run on a soft grass track and see where your foot lands. Not that I am a pro bare foot runner. I just tried it to see where/how my body wanted to run naturaly. I ran a full ironman on the fore foot. No ITB issues through out. And my trainng buddy ran the full ironman on his heels no injuries or issues. And so the debate rages on...

Anonymous said...

My head is on fire! Heel striking is not good for you. If it were and we took off our shoes to run we WOULD land on our heels. Funny how before Bill Bowerman put the damn heel on the shoe no one questioned it. Funny how the heels on the shoes get thicker yet injury rates have not gone down.. It torks the knee and ankle and places too much stress on hip joints.