This does not mean:
- I am slow
- I am inefficient
- I am at greater risk for injury
There are so many misconceptions about heel-striking, more formally known as “rearfoot striking”, but the reality is that heel-striking is NOT the devil…
The vast majority of recreational runners, close to 90% are heel-strikers and around 75% of elite runners. Non-heel strikers are kind of like left-handed people… they do it because it works for them and it’s what their body has determined it does the best with… but it’s not “better” or “more efficient” for the rest of humanity.
Heel-striking vs. midfoot or forefoot striking differ mainly in the way they set the body up to mitigate forces through the lower extremity. For a quick example, a heel-strike tends to place more load through the knee whereas a forefoot strike tends to place more load through the foot and calf complex.
How about running economy? Studies have even shown forefoot running to cost more energy and glycogen stores. In other studies they have tried to transition runners slowly from a rearfoot strike to a forefoot strike and runners became less efficient and were not able to bring that efficiency back up over longer periods of time.
Is there ever a time and place to fiddle with foot strike? Yes, but it isn’t nearly as common as one might think. A quick example might be a forefoot striker who suffers from persistent Achilles tendinopathy issues. To allow them to tolerate more running while we build their tendon back up, we might have them transition to more of a rearfoot strike temporarily. Or a heel-striker with medial compartment syndrome might benefit from more of a midfoot/forefoot strike to reduce load to the affected area.
I hope you understand more about a runner’s footstrike and that the way you run is primarily determined by what your body finds to be best for you, so don’t fight it. Be proud and trust your body. Be skeptical about people who want you to change the way that you run, ask questions and make sure their reasoning is sound.
- Warr et al. (2014). Footstrike Patterns Do Not Influence Running Related Overuse Injuries in U.S. Army Soldiers. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46, 812.
- Hamill et al. (2017). Is Changing Footstrike Pattern Beneficial To Runners? Journal of Sport and Health Science, 6(2), 146-153.
- Gruber et al. (2013). Economy and Rate of Carbohydrate Oxidation During Running with Rearfoot And Forefoot Strike Patterns. Journal of Applied Physiology, 115(2), 194-201.
- Hasegawa et al. (2007). Foot Strike Patterns of Runners at the 15-Km Point During an Elite-Level Half Marathon. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 21(3), 888-893.
- Bowersock CD, Willy RW, DeVita P, Willson JD. Independent effects of step length and foot strike pattern on tibiofemoral joint forces during running. J Sports Sci. 2017 Oct;35(20):2005-2013.