When we are injured or when we are trying to improve our running performance, we all want that quick fix. Applying athletic tape wear (i.e. kinesiology tape) to the leg is a common strategy thought to accelerate healing and more recently, was thought to enhance biomechanics. I however, believe you should learn the correct running style rather than rely on external support to help you run better.
Forefoot Running Better Ergogenic Alternative to Athletic Tape Wear
Often when fatigue sets in during running, we unknowingly adjust our biomechanics in ways that have implication to injury. Many experts think that KT tape is a great solution to this as it may preserve stride length under fatigued conditions.
How does the tape do this?
The hypothesized mechanism of action of therapeutic tape is that it acts as a rubber band helping a fatigue runner pull the trail leg anteriorly due to the tape’s elasticity. So, does KT really work?
A study by Ward et al.,(2014) investigated the effects of tape wear on biomechanics in heel strike runners under fatigue running conditions. The researchers found that when placed over the thighs, elastic therapeutic tape prevented reductions in stride length in fatigued heel strike runners, suggesting that KT tape enabled the heel strike runners to have a long stride which would consequentially increase the braking effect, leading to more loads on the knees, hips and back. This is what you don’t want as many elite runners will tell you that in order to avoid injury and run with efficiency is by shortening your stride.
Moreover, the extensibility and elasticity of the tendinous units of the hind leg delivers less potential energy in a heel strike landing, especially when the stride is overly long, too. This is due to a maximally extended knee at touchdown (shown below).
Essentially, in heel strike running, the therapeutic tape’s job is to provide additional elasticity to make up for the loss of stretch and recoil due to a hyper-stiff leg at touchdown. And, the current study demonstrated only short-term preservation of stride length with elastic therapeutic tape. Not to mention, there is a lack of high-quality evidence in favor of the efficacy of therapeutic tape on running performance and injury treatment/prevention.
The good thing about forefoot running however, is that in contrast to heel strike running, the legs act like an elastic band when you land on your forefoot.
Rubber Band Legs in Forefoot Running
Forefoot runners do not need external mechanical aid to improve gait efficiency at the elastic level.
The forefoot running technique is proved safe and effective over heel strike running, allowing the legs to function naturally as an elastic rubber band, just like elastic therapeutic tape.
Forefoot running enhances the muscles and tendons ability to stretch and recoil for force generation by increasing knee compliance and decreasing stride length. This is how braking is also reduced.
In forefoot running, the Achilles tendon acts as a rubber band, full of elasticity, allowing the leg musculature to behave more passively thereby saving lots of energy.
Most therapies on improving technique, running economy and treatment strategies have missed an important clue. The real problem is that the runners were heel striking, causing the body to not respond properly to the related high impact demands. Such a deficit compromises efficiency to such an extent that a piece of tape will not help anything.
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- Think Twice About Motion Control Stability Running Shoes
- The Fastest Way to Strengthen Your Feet
- Best Shoe for Forefoot Strikers
- More Pros than Cons for Minimalist Running Sandals
Rosenfield, E. The influence of filament elasticity on transients after sudden alteration of length of muscle or load. Euro Biophys J, 2004; 43:367–76.
Ward et al. The egogenic effects of elastic therapeutic tape on stride and step length in fatigued runners. J Chirop Med, 2014; 13:221–29.
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.