How Meb Keflezighi’s Change in Foot Strike Helped Him Win The Boston Marathon

This is an older story worth mentioning over and over because it’s a timeless point on why foot strike pattern matters immensely in running. Here’s the story:

Meb Keflezighi’s new change in foot strike helped him win the 2014 Boston Marathon, and here’s why.

In 2014, Meb became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983. Prior to then, Meb ran for Nike, but struggled with major injuries, then Nike dropped him because he was just ‘too injury-prone’ to invest in.

Why is Proper Running Form Important?
Another reason Nike dropped Meb was because he was  ‘too old’ to run. Whatever that means.

As a Nike runner,  Meb was a heel striker  -a foot strike pattern proven to be the most force intensive and more injurious than forefoot striking when running. At that time, Meb suffered a fleet of ongoing injuries which eventually compromised his performance, which is why Nike dropped him, leaving Meb absolutely crushed.

Thankfully in 2011, Meb gained new sponsorship as well as an improved style of running which brought him significantly more success than his time with Nike.

Meb signed with Skechers (shown below) which markets their brand as ‘anti-heel striking’ running shoes because the design discourages heel strike, and instead, encourages a mid-foot to forefoot strike landing pattern.

Best Forefoot Running Shoes
Sketchers design their shoes with a rocker-shaped sole intended to help a runner avoid a hard-hitting heel strike, and instead, land with a softer, more controlled and more responsive forefoot strike or a mid-foot strike, which are comparatively safer and more efficient than heel striking.

When it comes to reducing injury risk in ways that sustains in running, its going to take a combination of a shorter stride length and a higher step-rate to prevent increases in impacts from spreading out from the foot up the leg. Forefoot striking is the only method that optimally engages these two mechanical outputs. Conversely, an over-stride and a low step-rate are consequential mechanics that naturally accompany a heel strike landing. This is why heel striking is so injurious because the act of landing heel-first when running is enough to alter ankle, knee and upper body joint angles that produce higher-than-normal impacts which keep feeding injuries, shown below:

Why is Heel Striking So Bad When Running?
Landing heel-first when running puts your legs swing mechanics on a harmful trajectory, causing the leg to over-reach too far ahead of the hips (which is also the body’s center of mass in running). This creates an over-stride tied to exponential impact, especially in thicker cushioned shoes which were found to actually amplify the burst in collisional impact that always occurs at heel strike. This is never the case in forefoot running because the over-stride is eliminated, which stamps out a lot of dangerous impact variables. This has also been the hallmark of forefoot running, and is why it’s even more important to run forefooted, not pounding your heel into the ground.

Since joining Skechers, Meb corrected his heel strike and adopted a mid-foot/forefoot strike landing. This is a small but vital mechanical modification that keeps Meb rolling along injury-free because forefoot/mid-foot striking automatically engages a shorter stride length, thus preventing a damaging over-stride. At the same time, step-rate is naturally higher, meaning the foot interacts with the ground more brief, many forms of impacts and other physical stressors do not have enough time to rise to pain and injury-inducing levels!

How Meb Keflezighi's Change in Foot Strike Helped Him Win The Boston Marathon
As soon as Meb ditched his heel strike and adopted a forefoot/midfoot strike landing, he was able to train more because he was injuring less, if not, at all.

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How Meb Keflezighi's Change in Foot Strike Helped Him Win The Boston Marathon
There is a foot strike-injury link in running whereby the science is settled forefoot/mid-foot running gives you better chances at avoiding nearly all injuries, especially severe injuries, like bone injuries, as compared with heel strike running.

In 2014, Meb won the Boston Marathon with his new and improved running form; he looked smoother, more efficient, more responsive and most importantly, he was more healthy because he wasn’t banged up with injury, like he was as a Nike runner. At Boston, everyone noticed Meb’s running form transformation, which made the concept of foot strike a major focus in running.

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Less injury equals more time to train harder and longer, and let’s face it, heel strike runners aren’t breaking world records to the huge extent as mid-foot/forefoot runners! Congratulations Meb!

Need more convincing that forefoot running is better than heel strike running? Here are all the evidenced-backed reasons forefoot running is not just safer, it’s more economical than heel strike running.

If you’ve enjoyed my post, you’ll love my YouTube channel, here, where I show why and how forefoot running really works!

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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