Forefoot vs Midfoot vs Rearfoot Running?

Running style

What do runners generally do regards foot strike?

A recent Runner’s World study of more than 160,000 recreational and elite runners revealed that 40 percent of people thought they were heel strikers, 43 percent midfoot strikers and 17 percent forefoot strikers. Under analysis it was found, 94 percent of these runners were heel strikers, 4 percent midfoot strikers and only 2 percent were forefoot strikers

Is it a good idea to change your running foot strike?

Most research on the efficacy of changing one’s foot strike from a rearfoot to a mid or forefoot strike suggests that there is no obvious benefit to such a change for the majority of runners. It may be that change in one person’s normal foot strike, may actually result in stressing tissue that is not normally stressed when running with their habitual pattern, thus leading to the possibility of injury.

Is there any benefit to changing foot strike?Foot Strike

A research study by Hamill and Gruber 2017 found:

  • the scientific basis for encouraging runners to change their foot strike pattern is not warranted
  • there is little conclusive scientific evidence that a mid or forefoot strike improves running economy or reduces the risk of running related injuries
  • further research is needed assessing risks of injury

When should a runner try change strike pattern?

A detailed study evaluating the biomechan­ics of habitual heel and forefoot strike runners, demonstrated runners who strike the ground with their forefoot absorb more force at the ankle and less at the knee. The opposite is true for heel strikers in they have reduced muscular strain at the foot and ankle with increased strain on the knee. This is consistent with several studies confirming that the choice of a heel or midfoot strike pattern does not alter overall force present during the contact period, it just transfers the force to other joints and muscles.

The research proves that choosing a specific contact point does not alter overall force, it just changes the location where the force is absorbed. A runner with knee problems may benefit from a gradual change to forefoot running, and conversely a runner with Achilles tendinopathy may be helped by heel striking reducing loading on the foot.

Changing one’s foot strike to a mid or forefoot strike may be beneficial to some but, based on the current biomechanical, physiological, and epidemiologic literature, it should not be recommended for the majority of runners, particularly those who are recreational runners.

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Is changing foot strike pattern beneficial to runners? 
Journal of health and Sport, Hamill & Gruber (June 2017)


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