The Problem with Forefoot Running Research – Reporting Bias

Forefoot running is safer than heel striking because the impact transient is eliminated. And most elite runners forefoot strike. Yet, many studies omit forefoot running as an effective strategy to avoid injury.

Many studies that compared the effects of heel striking and forefoot running on performance and injury has shown a systematic bias.

Why Research is Biased Towards Heel Striking
Could researchers who show that heel striking is better, be heel strike runners themselves?

A big problem with research on foot strike in running is reporting bias. Many researchers may favor heel striking over forefoot running because they, themselves are heel strike runners. As a consequence, these researchers tend to show positive results for heel striking over forefoot running in their research.

Reporting bias is further compounded through the tendency to publish positive results, but confine negative or inconclusive findings.

However, newer studies on habitually barefoot runners where forefoot running is predominant, have demonstrated that runners who switched from a forefoot strike to a heel strike were much likely to have no benefit.

Unfortunately in other studies, evidence on the efficacy of forefoot running has been ambiguous because the participants were heel strikers instructed to adopt a forefoot strike without proper instruction. This type of scientific design is the reason the results on the health benefits of forefoot running have been difficult to reproduce.

The efficacy of forefoot running however, shines through in studies where runners were given proper instruction on the forefoot running technique. For good results to hold up in the research on forefoot running, participants must learn the proper technique of forefoot running.

And finally, habitually barefoot-forefoot runners from countries such as Ethiopia make better controls than barefoot-forefoot runners who were once shod-heel strikers. Why?

Forefoot runners from Ethiopia ran barefoot during critical stages of early developing, allowing them to have a more finely tuned forefoot running technique that closely approximates the forefoot running style of our ancestors 4 million years ago.

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Run forefoot because you are faster than you think!

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!

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