Landing with a forefoot strike is central to preventing hip injuries from running.
In running, hip injuries are often blamed on hip weakness. However, emerging scientific facts are attacking this assertion in that hip overload via heel striking, not hip weakness contribute to hip injuries.
How to Prevent Hip Injuries From Running
Heel strike running increases the risk of hip injuries because of knee extension at touchdown. In this scenario, the knee extensor muscles are unable to absorb shock when the knee is maximally extended at touchdown, resulting in greater reliance or overload of passive mechanisms in the hip [1, 2].
Forefoot Strike Safer on Hips
In forefoot running, what naturally happens is that at touchdown, knee flexion is greater which shifts shock absorption from passive areas, such as the hip, to muscular contractions in the calf musculature .
Another way forefoot running reduces overloading on the hip is through higher stride cadence. One study reported that minimalist shoes and barefoot running improved lower leg mechanics by encouraging a forefoot strike which is associated with greater efficiency, partly because stride cadence is higher . Another study also found that a 5% to 10% increase in stride cadence reduced loading on the hip, suggesting that forefoot running promotes a safer landings that are more ‘hip-friendly’ than heel strike running.
The Take Home Message
Heel strike running is most likely the proximate cause of hip injury since maximum knee extension and low stride cadence are the two main factors that shape the risk of hip injuries.
Conversely, forefoot running is not meant to hurt the body since humans evolved for it. Because forefoot running exclusively reduces knee extension and increases stride cadence, it therefore works best to reduce injuries at the hip.
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Are Heel Strikers Slower? Here I uncover the 2 main reasons that may slow a heel striker down.
The Neuroscience of Running….Barefoot – An overview of how barefoot running boosts motor coordination patterns in the brain, helping you run with better mechanics.
Shoes for Forefoot Strikers – Read about the barefoot-inspired running shoes that help avoid heel strike.
. Derrick TR, Hamill J, Caldwell GE. Energy Absorption of Impacts During Running at Various Stride Lengths. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998; 30(1):128-135.
. Voloshin A and Wosk J. An in Vivo Study of Low Back Pain and Shock Absorption in the Human Locomotor System. J Biomech. 1982; 15(1):21-27.
. Edwards WB, Derrick TR, Hamill J. Musculoskeletal Attenuation of Impact Shock in Response to Knee Angle Manipulation. J App Biomech. In Press.
. Gillonov et al. Effect of minimalist footwear on running efficiency: a randomized crossover trial. Sports Health, 2015;7(3):256-260.
. Heiderscheit BC, Chumanov ES, Michalski MP, Wille CM, Ryan MB. Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43:296-302.
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.
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