Heel vs. Midfoot Strike in Runners

Does a Midfoot Strike Help Reduce Injury in Runners?

We see a ton of runners here at SSOR, competitive and recreational runners alike.  We have some that just run to stay in shape, start running to get back in shape, or are training for various types of races that cover a host of distances.  With the revisiting of the “barefoot running” craze, it’s changed how we look at running and research is showing some interesting findings in those that do more of a midfoot strike versus those that run with a heel strike.  We’ve even written an article on this in a peer-reviewed journal – your experts are right here in Kansas City!  We do suggest that if you decide to change your stride, it should be gradual.  If you do “too much too soon,” you might leave yourself at greater risk for injury due to the change in how you run.  A metronome may help you establish a good cadence, which is roughly 180 beats/minute, give or take.
strike 300x226 Heel vs. Midfoot Strike in Runners
For those runners considering changing their running pattern, there is some promising research showing that there is a greater ground reaction force when landing on the heel versus the mid foot (DeWit et al, J Biomech 2000; Divert et al, Int J Sports Med 2008; Divert et al, Int J Sports Med 2005; Jenkins et al, J Am Pod Assoc 2011; Stacoff et al, J Biomech 2000).  This means you are creating a higher loading rate and impact through the joints in the leg and could lead to more injuries.   What we don’t know yet though is if striking more times with shorter strides has any effect, if any, on injury rates or locations.  Obviously there are many other factors that lead to injuries in running, but if you are trying to change you style here are a couple great exercise that can help you with your transition.  These exercises encourage good posture (forward lean) and mid foot landing.

 Exercises for Midfoot Strike

Butt Kicks

Standing in place, raise heel to butt, reciprocating side to side in running motion.  The emphasis is on midfoot landing and good posture.  See figures 1 and 2 below.

Buttkick1 225x300 Heel vs. Midfoot Strike in Runners

Figure 1: “Butt Kicks”, Part 1


 
 
buttkick2 225x300 Heel vs. Midfoot Strike in Runners

Figure 2: “Butt Kicks”, Part 2


 

Wall Lean with High Steps

Lean forward against wall with good trunk position.  Slowly march back and forth, gradually increasing speed.  Landing should be on the midfoot.  Progress to explosive, quick changes, stabilizing the trunk in a neutral position.  See figures 3 and 4 below.

walllean1 225x300 Heel vs. Midfoot Strike in Runners

Figure 3: “Wall Lean,” Part 1


 
walllean2 224x300 Heel vs. Midfoot Strike in Runners

Figure 4: “Wall Lean,” Part 2


 
Whether you’re getting started, have nagging injuries, or are battling an injury currently, the staff at SSOR have an elevated understanding of the biomechanics of the body during running.  We’ll look at you head to toe, then perform an analysis of your running pattern if you wish.  You’ll leave here with useful exercises and techniques to help you run as pain free as possible, and at least ensure that you are doing things properly.  Remember, you don’t need a physician referral to receive physical therapy anymore in the state of Kansas.  Just give us a call, it would be a privilege to serve you.
 

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