How Running Foot Strike Affects Impact Absoption

Impact absorption is valuable in running, but many runners struggle with impact-related injuries.

If you feel that you run with too much impact, consider how your foot is striking the ground during running as running foot strike corresponds to impact production or reduction.

Running Foot Strike

How Running Foot Strike Affects Impact Absorption

In running, foot strike pattern determines the level of impact absorption, and when runners land with a heel strike, they are in danger of injury.

Heel strike runners are highly prone to impact-related repetitive stress injuries, such as back, hip and knee pain as well as tibial stress fractures and plantar fasciitis, as compared with forefoot runners [1], suggesting that forefoot running provides better protection against impact. Here are some of the reasons:

  • In a forefoot strike landing, most of the landing impact is absorbed through the small bones and muscles of the foot [2], which minimizes impact from the ankle up.

How Heel Strike Amplifies Impact During Running

Heel Strike Runners Less Able to Absorb Impact than Forefoot Runners

The fact that heel strike runners endure more impact to the body, implies that the wrong musculoskeleton structures are used to absorb impact.

For instance, heel strike runners rely on the heel pad for impact absorption, but the heel pad has been found to be a poor shock absorber during heel strike running, but not walking with a heel strike.

Heel strike runners also use the plantar fascia for impact absorption. Doing so however, hyper-stretches, increases strain and maximal tension on the plantar fascia during the support phase, thereby increasing the risk of plantar fasciitis [2], as compared with forefoot running.

Unfortunately, running shoes does nothing to help reduce impact in heel strike runners either. Click here to find out why cushioned running shoes amplifies impact, rather than reduces it.

Need more convincing as to why forefoot running is safer? Click here to read about the health benefits of forefoot running.


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References:

[1]. Pohl M., Hamill J and Davis IS. Biomechanical and anatomical factors associated with a history of plantar fasciitis in female runners. Clin J Sports Med, 2009; 19:372-6.

[2]. Thompson et al. Kinematic and kinetic comparison of barefoot and shod running in mid/forefoot and rearfoot strike runners. Gait & Posture, 2015; 41:957-959.


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Bretta Riches

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

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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