By: Dr. Kris Sheppard
Lately the hot topic, as it relates to running form, is heel vs mid foot vs forefoot striking. There has been various research studies looking at the forces produced by runners hitting the ground with the three different striking options. The research at this point appears to show a decrease in loading rate when one hits the ground with a mid-foot strike pattern vs a heel-strike. This evidence is then supported by observations of African barefoot runners striking the ground in the same way. The media has blown this new evidence out of proportion and now coaches, trainers, and therapist alike are instructing their runners to simply land on the forefoot/mid-foot as a sole coaching cue.
So what is wrong with this? The issue is; there is more to running technique and mechanics than isolating what the foot is doing. If you want to change what is happening at the end of the kinetic chain you need to look at the entire mechanical chain. I’ve seen a lot of hunched forward, over-striding, “forefoot” runners who ultimately develop overuse injuries through the hip, feet and lower limbs.
“Real vs Feel” was the way one golf-pro described this as we were having a conversation about running technique and how to instruct a proper foot strike. I agree that landing on your forefoot is generally an ideal striking pattern for running; however, focusing too much on your foot position is problematic. This small amount of research has clouded our view on how to cue our clients.
Observing a client’s foot strike pattern and then instructing he/she to “land on your forefoot/mid-foot” is jumping right to the end goal. Landing on your forefoot/mid-foot, loading and springing forward has more to do with posture, core and hip drive than focusing completely on what your foot in doing.
At the Runner’s Academy we focus on the Fundamentals of running.
1. Posture- this encompasses “core” strength and breathing.
3. Lift vs Drag through the swing phase
4. Understanding what stride length is and how to achieve it- Don’t reach.
If these 4 objectives can be achieved a springy/proper foot strike will happen! Also remember; change has to happen slowly, identifying the weak areas and working on improving them especially in the foot and hip! Here is a video we found on this very subject. Dr. Lieberman discusses his research on foot strike patterns and mechanics of barefoot running. Listen to the last few slides on what he recommends! https://achesandjoints.org/2012/04/25/lieberman-barefoot-running/