Core Training Doesn’t Help Runners Who Heel Strike

Virtually any runner who runs with a heel strike, is at a significant risk of injury as compared with runners who use a forefoot strike landing. This is because heel strike running generates a greater ground reaction force and a greater horizontal ground reaction force, in which studies have proved that these forces cause running-related overuse injuries (Bus, SA; Gottschall and Kram; Hreljac, A; Novacheck, TF) . However, developing a strong core could led to better biomechanics, leading to lighter ground reaction forces. But that is not what a recent investigation found.

Core Training Doesn't Help Heel Strike Runners

Core Training Doesn’t Help Runners Who Heel Strike

A study by Sato and Mokha (2009) investigated the effects of a 6 week core strength training program on ground reaction forces, lower leg stability and overall running performance in heel strike runners. The researchers had the runners perform core strengthening exercises, such as sit-ups, hip raises and Russian twists on a stability ball. These exercises targeted the abdominal muscles, hip flexors/extensors and back extensors which make up the core.

Post-training, the researchers found that core strengthening training did not help reduce the peak vertical and horizontal ground reaction force associated with many overuse running injuries in heel strike runners. The core training also did not improve lower leg stability in the heel strike runners, suggesting that core strengthening might not help heel strike runners run more safely and with less impact. So, in summary, injurious impact force variables did not reduce with core training exercises in heel strike runners.

To date, there are very little findings proving that heel strike running is safe. In fact, these new insights are offering a fresh take on the dangers of heel strike running in that key strengthening exercises does not prime a heel strike runner toward safer running biomechanics.

So, if you are a heel strike runner who is always dealing with injuries, stop relying on strength training to help you, and don’t believe that you have some inherent running defect which is fueling your injuries. In particular, what you need to do is learn forefoot running because it dramatically reduces the vertical ground reaction force and high loading rates on the knee and you can soon begin to feel better overall.

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References:

Bus, SA. Ground reaction forces and kinematics in distance running in older-aged men. Med Sci Sports Exerc 35: 1167–1175, 2003.

Gottschall, JS and Kram, R. Ground reaction forces during downhill and uphill running. J Biomech 38: 445–452, 2005.

Hreljac, A. Impact and overuse injuries in runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36: 845–849, 2004.

Novacheck, TF. The biomechanics of running. Gait Posture 7: 77–95, 1998.

Sato K and Mokha M. Does core strength training influence kinetics, lower-extremity stability, and 5000-m performance in runners? J Strength and Condition, 2009; 23(1): 133-140.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!