A common question we get asked is “Should I be running on my toes?”
If you’re a runner, you’ve heard of the forefoot v midfoot v heel strike debate.
With running, forefoot striking means the ball of your foot hits the ground first, midfoot is in between, and heel strike is when the heel contacts the ground first.
Did you know that shoes influence Foot Strike?
People often dismiss or fail to realise that foot strike patterns are closely linked to what shoes you run in! Foot strike patterns vary across minimalist, non-minimalist and cushioning shoes.
There are so many other types of shoes but let’s keep it simple for this discussion.Minimalist shoes tend to encourage a forefoot striking pattern, while more supportive shoes promote heel strike as they’re built up at the back of the shoe.
The reason behind this is due to the relative flatness of the sole and negative heel counter in a minimal shoe, vs the heel raise and cushioning in a supportive shoe. These factors will influence how your foot hits the ground!
We need to be aware of normal Foot Strike patterns
Did you know that foot strike patterns are largely varied across recreational runners and athletes? Have a look at the tables below, there is a huuuuge variation across runners. There is NO normal!
Also, when we’re talking about running here, we’re not including sprinting. When running at a faster pace you have to forefoot strike. Forefoot strike is our natural strike pattern at sprinting speeds. Much like heel strike is what we will revert to naturally with longer distances.
Both are normal for each scenario.
should I change my running pattern?
Rule of thumb for Runners, we change what is NOT working for us!
With running, you may seek to change things when you have an injury or are in pain.
But will you be out of pain if you change strike pattern? This really depends on what is injured!
Forefoot striking loads up the ankle joint, while heel striking puts pressure on the knee.
It might help to change strike patterns in the short term while offloading a sore area, but there are other things we can do to help keep people moving! You already have enough to deal with if you’re sore, so lets not focus on changing how you’ve always run, ie: your naturally efficient gait pattern!
Will changing your strike pattern improve performance?
Studies show us that there is no difference in oxygen consumption levels for forefoot v heel strike. This means neither was proven to be more efficient than the other.
The Bottom Line
Clinically, I see clients come in BECAUSE they have changed running pattern and strike all of a sudden. “I tried to start running on my toes” for example! Our bodies usually aren’t ready for such a change, and this can cause injury.
If you are dealing with a running injury, there are other management options to get you running pain-free again which have more evidence behind them. If you’ve exhausted other options, then it may be something worth looking at.I enjoy running and working with runners, and would be happy to discuss with you further!