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Sports Medicine Feature

Source: Wikimedia Commons and Tony Alter

Putting the Wrong Foot Forward

Biloine W. Young • Fri, December 23rd, 2016

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Forefoot or a midfoot strike?

The debate over running styles goes on.

Many coaches have held that the midfoot strike—landing on the ball of the foot—is better and creates less force through the body. Now a study by Western Australia's Curtin University, that used sound and 3D motion technology to measure the impact and load of the different running styles of 26 participants, has altered that perception.

The participants were first asked to run “normally.” Then they were asked to run “quietly” to see if the force exerted on their joints also “lightened.”

Following instructions, the participants changed to a forefoot strike when they were trying to run quietly. The sound was reduced but the force was not. It was simply shooting through the body in a different way.

"Using a rear-foot and forefoot strike technique changes the loads experienced by the joints and muscles when running which can pre-dispose you to certain types of injuries, " said lead author Leo Ng, M.D. "Forefoot strike runners are at greater risk of Achilles-type injuries while rear-foot runners are more likely to get knee pain."

Running Coach Damon Bray agrees that there is no ideal style. “Look at the Olympics with the very best runners together, " he said. "Not one of them will run exactly the same. They'll try to apply the same principles but will, in essence, move differently."

Bray disagrees with the advice to change footwear or strike pattern. "Suggesting runners, especially recreational runners, could or should ditch supportive running shoes and try barefoot or nearly non supportive shoes will in my opinion cause a high degree of injury.”

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One Response to “Putting the Wrong Foot Forward”

  1. T. Bailey says:

    A hundred thousand years ago—that is, pre-pavement, running without your supportive running shoes was pretty normal. You also wore out and were gone by age 40, and foot and leg damage was the least of your worries.

    Fast forward to today. Our legs and feet were not designed for flat, hard pavement with little or no variation and the constant steady impact of running on it.

    Wear good supportive shoes…or go run barefoot (or nearly so) in the fields and forests like your ancestors and avoid the pavement…and the lions, tigers and bears.

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