Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quick Running Tip: Try Forefoot Striking

Running injuries are nothing new. In the 1970s, when running injury data was first collected, about 20 percent of runners had injuries, with the top five injuries affecting the knee, Achilles tendon, shins, foot, and ankle. (1) Since the 70s, both the number of runners and their injuries have gone up: Today it is estimated that up to 70 percent of all runners will experience an injury every year (with the top five running injuries found in the foot, Achilles tendon, upper leg, knee, and shins). (2,3) And this increase in injuries is despite of latest running shoes designed to cushion, support, and control runners' feet.

There are lots of possible reasons for all these injuries (e.g., modern shoes, asphalt running surfaces, poor training, popularity), but one surprisingly controversial cause might be how you strike the ground.

A person can initially make contact with the ground while running in one of three different ways: With the hindfoot-, mid-, or forefoot. Hindfoot (or heel) strikers will first land on heel of their foot, while midfoot strikers land with their entire foot. Forefoot strikers will land on the balls of their feet.     
Heel strikers impact the ground with their heel first; midfoot strikers place their whole foot on the ground; and forefoot strikers land on the balls of their feet (and may also lightly make contact with their heel before pushing off).

Although heel striking is popular with today's runners, (4,5) it seems that forefoot striking is a more natural way to contact the ground while jogging and running. You can test this out by trying to run barefoot. No matter what your running style is when you wear shoes, we all run on the balls of our feet when we run barefoot. Heel striking is only possible in modern running shoes.

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