Heel strike running is not the correct running form humans evolved for and is why most runners injure, not because of gender, not because of muscle strength imbalances, or arch height, but by how the foot strikes the ground at touchdown.
Improper running technique and injury derives from high-tech running shoes with thickly cushioned heels, causing runners to strike the ground on the heel first and with more force compared to habitual barefoot runners who are mostly forefoot strikers. Below is a video that describes what I mean:
Most Ethiopian distance runners display the correct running form which why I base most of my forefoot running content on Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele.
Because these Ethiopian runners ran barefoot for more than a decade during their earlier years before becoming elite runners. Barefoot running from day 1, shapes the reflexive nature of forefoot running and molds proper landing behavior. What do I mean by this?
Their forefoot running mechanics are pure, left un-touched by the conventional running shoe, until they score sponsorship’s later in life, but the critical components of safe, efficient running was already developed via barefoot running.
Their biomechanical parameters reflect that of how our ancestors ran, the natural way. Such biomechanical parameters of proper forefoot running observed in most Ethiopian distance runners includes:
With regards to foot strike, I have been on both sides of the fence. When I began running, I was a heel striker, always sore, battling injuries to the point where I had difficulty walking.
After intensive research on biomechanics, I found that the scientific literature painted a grim picture of heel striking running, implicating that this style of running is the underlying cause of most running-related injuries.
Statistically speaking, running injuries in habitually forefoot strike running populations were either very low, or rare, demonstrating that a forefoot strike provides better impact protection than a heel strike when running.
Lastly, I became inspired by Dibaba’s forefoot running style which motivated me to learn forefoot running.
Although my transition to forefoot running certainly did not happen over night, as a forefoot striker, my landings are softer, regardless of surface hardness, running feels easier, more natural, I flow.
Though I am far from elite status, having adopted a forefoot strike allows me to run consistently with great results, without discomfort and injury.
I want to share my past transition process with you and provide key information from the scientific literature that helped me along the way. And, I want aspiring forefoot runners to learn from my mistakes by avoiding the ‘too much, too soon’ pitfall.
Nevertheless, my goal is to advocate the importance of running with a forefoot strike and raise awareness on the potential health harming effects of heel strike running.
Finally, by showing that forefoot running is safe and easy to learn, I hope to inspire more people to run and banish the false perception that running is ‘dangerous’. Less pain, more gain with forefoot running.
Do whatever works for you. In my opinion, I believe the human form was designed to run with a forefoot strike, not a heel strike. Again, that is just my opinion which is certainly biased based on my bad experience with heel striking.
Many runners believe runners aren’t built for ‘this and that’ and that is fine, to each their own. However, I also believe that if you are a heel striker, or a midfoot striker who has never been injured, keep doing what you are doing. But, for those who are chronically injured, adopting a forefoot strike might be a sensible alternative to consider.
What are your thoughts on this post? Were you impacted? Looking forward to hearing from you!
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Harrison, PC and Davis, IS. Gait retraining to reduce lower extremity loading in runners. Clin Biomech (2010); 26: 74-83.
Copyright © 2015 |By Bretta Riches Run Forefoot