Many of the root causes of running injuries are judged by how a runner pronates. The latest conception is that foot pronation when running is a good thing, an overpronated foot however, is not good and may place more strain on the foot, particularly the medial (middle) aspect of the foot because the arch may collapse too much during the stance phase of running (McClay and Manal, 1998).
By no means is the natural pronation pattern of the foot similar between heel strike and forefoot strike running. Research has revealed that the foot may pronate more appropriately, or safely in forefoot running, whereas in heel strike running, the pronation pattern of the foot seems to be damaging to the leg.
How the Overpronated Foot in Heel Strike Running Causes Injury
During the stance phase of heel strike running, the forefoot rapidly rotates outward, away from the midline. As the body-weight passes over the foot, the arch fully collapses (Lutter, 1978), causing the medial border of the foot to absorb high amounts of abnormal stress, until the forefoot thrusts the body forward. The combination of forefoot thrusting at the propulsive phase and medial forefoot stress during the pronation phase (stance phase) in heel strike running, may amplify stress on the ankle and shin and may also be a major risk factor for medial shin splints (Rasch, 1973).
The only way to rectify foot pronation during running is to run with a forefoot strike, preferably in barefoot-like running shoes, as doing so lessens the work of the shin muscles because less support of the medial aspect of the foot in required during the support phase.
DeLacerda, F. A Study of Anatomical Factors Involved in Shin Splints. J Ortho Sports Phy Ther, 1980; 2(2):55-59.
Lutter LD: Medical news: padded shoes put runners back on the track. J Am Med Assoc 239:1840. 1978
Rasch PJ, Burke RK: Kinesiology and Applied Anatomy. Ed 5, pp 378. 397. 404, 493-497. Philadelphia: Lea 8. Febiger. 1973.
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.