Switching to Midfoot Running Instead of Forefoot Running Might Backfire

To improve running economy, switching to midfoot running over forefoot running might actually back-fire because a midfoot strike landing does not always maximize elastic energy storage and reduce peak impact as forefoot running.

One study purported that Pose Running –a running technique that involves a midfoot strike landing– is assumed to improve running economy [1].

Switching to a Midfoot Strike Might Not Improve Economy

The researchers investigated the effects of Pose Running on running economy in sub-elite triathletes and found that despite increased cadence and reduced ground contact time, Pose Running dragged the runners down compared to the non-Pose Runners, suggesting that adopting a midfoot running style might not be an ideal biomechanical intervention to improve performance.

In my opinion, increased cadence and reduced contact time are the ‘pros’ of Pose Running whereas the midfoot strike landing is the only ‘con’. Pose Running would be more effective to performance if a forefoot strike is used simply because more research stands strongly behind the role of forefoot running in improving running economy as compared with midfoot running.

2 Problems with Midfoot Running

1. Higher Impact than Forefoot Running

The midfoot strike might resemble the lower leg kinematics of heel striking. Researchers have also found that midfoot striking shares similar impact characteristics to heel striking [1]. For example, like heel strike runners, many midfoot strikers show greater dorsiflexion upon touchdown which may cause the heel to kiss the ground first and generate an initial impact peak within the vertical ground reaction force. In essence, more impact might compromise running economy because more energy is needed by the musculature to attenuate this impact.

Comparatively, forefoot runners land with more plantarflexion which acts as a heel strike deterrent and allows the forefoot to strike the ground; meanwhile the impact peak is not generated. This comparison is significant because one of the main biomechanical features identified in more economical runners is a lower impact peak.

2. Less Energy Storage than Forefoot Running

A midfoot strike landing might not be sufficient enough to stretch the Achilles tendon as much as it stretches in a forefoot strike landing partly because the lowering of the heel in forefoot running stretches the Achilles tendon, allowing more energy storage than in a heel strike and midfoot strike landing [2].

In midfoot running, the forefoot and heel lands on the ground simultaneously, so the heel does not lower like it does in forefoot running, thus the Achilles tendon does not have the opportunity to stretch as much as it should to optimize elastic energy storage.

When adopting a new foot strike, be mindful of the similarities between midfoot strike and heel strike running. In a proof of principal for better running economy, look at the best runners in the world, they are mostly forefoot strikers.

More from Run Forefoot:

Why Older Runners Need to Wear Minimalist Shoes – Find out how minimalist running shoes prevent age-related biomechanical impairments in older runners.

The Cause of ITBS – Understand how running shoes that are stiff and inflexible increases a runner’s risk of ITBS.

Expensive Shoes Doesn’t Mean More Protection – A study found that cheaper running shoes were linked to less injury rates than pricier ones.

Protecting Your Joints – Discover how the best joint protection technique for running is to avoid heel strike.

Born to Run…Forefoot? Here I talk about why humans are anatomically suited for forefoot running, and not heel strike running.

Are Heel Strikers Slower? Here I uncover the 2 main reasons that may slow a heel striker down.

The Neuroscience of Running….Barefoot – An overview of how barefoot running boosts motor coordination patterns in the brain, helping you run with better mechanics.

Shoes for Forefoot Strikers – Read about the barefoot-inspired running shoes that help avoid heel strike.


References:

[1]. Dallam et al. Effect of a global alteration of running technique on kinematics and economy. J Sports Sci, 2003;23(7):757-764.

[2]. Perl DP, Daoud AI, Lieberman DE. Effects of Footwear and Strike Type on Running Economy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012; 44(7):1335-1343.

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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