Strain injury of the leg from running is thought to be attributed to high arches. High foot arches are considered as poor shock absorbers, and runners with high arches seek treatment via cushioned running shoes which do not have the ability to prevent injury. The best thing a runner with high arches can do to avoid running injuries is repair their running form.
How Runners with High Arches Can Prevent Strain Injury
Arch height provides diagnostic information for lower leg injuries in runners. For example, high arches are rigid, creating a stiffer foot which reduces the capacity to dissipate impact as compared with low arches which are known to be better shock absorbers during running (Simkin et al. 1989). These findings however, come from studies on heel strike runners, suggesting that runners with high arches increase their risk of injury if they heel strike.
Why Heel Striking is Harmful for Runners with High Arches
In heel strike running, runners with high arches produce more impact at touchdown and at toe-off, therefore the heel and the forefoot become common sites of stress-related injury (Carson et al. 2012).
Furthermore, increased ankle dorsiflexion at heel strike increases maximum elevation of the arch, suggesting that heel striking may result in arches that are abnormally high (Omar et al. 1999).
So how can runners with high arches protect themselves from injury? The key is to land with your forefoot first, not your heel.
Less Relative Plantar Loads with Forefoot Running
Relative plantar loads, especially under the heel, are greater in heel strike running than in forefoot running. Because of this, heel strike runners with high arches are more likely to experience higher maximum forces on the medial heel and therefore, heel pain. Actively avoiding heel strike, and instead, land with a forefoot strike during running suppresses maximum forces on the heel, thereby relieving pain.
More From Run Forefoot:
Why Train Barefoot – Barefoot running makes you run better, that’s a fact! Understand why running barefoot makes you land properly on your forefoot, with lightness and more efficiency.
Common Injuries of Heel Strike Running – Need more convincing on the dangers of heel strike running? Here is a list of all the injuries that has been linked to heel strike running, as per scientific studies.
Best Shoes for Forefoot Running – In case you haven’t heard, the best shoes for running should resemble being barefoot. If your shoes aren’t barefoot-like, you’ll have trouble landing forefooteed. With that said, here are my recommendations on barefoot shoes for forefoot running.
Heel Strike vs Forefoot Strike – Learn the difference between a forefoot strike and a heel strike landing and how heel striking is more harmful.
P.S Don’t forget to see the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it’s a great to place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and other related topics. I’d be happy to answer them ya!
Carson et al. Increases plantar force and impulse in American football player with high arch compared to normal arch. The Foot, 2012, 22; 310-314.
Omar AM., Lee AS and Parsons SW. The clinical presentation of chronic tibialis anterior insufficiency. Foot and Ankle Surg, 1999; 5:251-256.
Simkin et al. Combined effect of foot arch structure and an orthotic device on stress fractures. Foot & Ankle, 1989; 10(1):25-9.
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.