Forefoot running amongst runners at the moment is the big buzz word. When speaking to runners in the clinic, it’s viewed as the optimum foot strike. While the heel strike is now seen among recreational runners as poor mechanics.

What does the research say about forefoot striking amongst runners? Most studies that have examined the strike pattern of runners have shown that heel striking is by far the most common pattern, with up to 90% (Larson et al., 2011) adopting this pattern. So it’s very fair to say that heel-strike is a pattern adopted by the majority, even amongst the holy grail of runners, the Kenyans.

But is forefoot running more economical for the everyday runner?

Gruber et al. (2013) “When the alternative footstrike pattern was performed, Forefoot running resulted in greater rates of V̇O2 than Rearfoot running in the Rearfoot group at the slow and medium speeds and across groups at the fast speeds”. So what does this mean in layman’s terms, basically that forefoot running is not more economical than rearfoot running. However, much more research is needed in this area.

So when would I ever change foot striking pattern?

One population group that it is useful to change the strike pattern is runners who present with knee pain. Research has shown that running with a forefoot strike reduces the overall forces that are absorbed through the knee itself. It’s a useful strategy to increase the overall step rate of a runner, which has a direct implication on step length during the rehabilitation process. Increasing the step rate by 5-10% will allow this to happen, but caution must be applied to this strategy as there will be increased forces placed on the calfs and Achilles tendon.

To summarsie forefoot running?

There is no research that supports increased running economy or reduced injury risk among a running population. However, it may be a useful strategy for certain population groups.

Thomas Divilly


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