Running Injuries: What Foot Strike Causes the Most

Statistically speaking, running injuries are always high, well ever since the 1970’s. It’s safe to assume that all runners get injured at one point in time, however the data points towards heel strikers for enduring most running injuries compared to forefoot strike runners.

Heel strike running injuries may be greater than injuirs related to forefoot runningExperts are beginning to believe that running injuries are much higher in heel strike runners.

It is difficult for scientists to find a direct link between heel strike and running injuries. Running injuries are often multifactorial, thus all we can come up with are predictors of running injuries that relate to foot strike.

However, Douad et al. found that repetitive stress injuries were consistently and significantly higher in heel strikers. The severity of repetitive stress injuries was 1.7 times greater in the heel strikers than forefoot strikers.

  • in the same study, the predicted injury rate was 2.7 times greater in the heel strikers and the frequency and severity compared to the forefoot strikers

Its tempting to draw conclusions that heel strikers have more frequent and severe running injuries than forefoot strikers. However to be fair, you could argue that in the recreational running population, there are more heel strikers than forefoot strikers which may suggest the higher incidences of injury.

Yet, elite distance runners do not heel strike which speaks volumes with respect to which foot strike is safer. Most elite runners are not heel striking for a reason! Because forefoot striking is safer.

Alberto Salazar insists that to be a great distance runner, you need to run like a sprinter, which translates to: run with a forefoot strike, not a heel strike.

For many years, I was a heel striker wrestling with running injuries. At this moment, I have been injury-free since transitioning to forefoot running.

Nevertheless, the solid data above serves as a reliable guide to accuracy and encourages the running community to appreciate scientific opinion on the proper foot strike in the context of injury prevention.


More on Heel Strike Running Injuries:


Daoud et al. Foot strike and injury rates in endurance runners: a retrospective study.Med Sci Sports Exerc (2012); 44(7):1325-34.

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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

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