Heel Strike Or Forefoot Strike: Which Is Better?

ThomasBarwickRunnersA long-debated question between runners, coaches, spectators, doctors and everyone in between: is it better to heel strike or forefoot strike?

Many people naturally heel strike when running. Finnish researchers studied the running form of 286 young adults from the area who played team sports, but none performed distance running. Out of all participants, only 19 women and 4 men landed on their forefoot. It’s definitely the type of strike that we see the most often here at the Rye Running Company.

However, proponets of the forefoot strike (also called midfoot striking) argue that midfoot striking is the best for a few reasons. First, a heel strike can act as a hard stop for runner, taking longer and requiring more energy to transition through the gait cycle. Second, a forefoot strike has the knees more engaged and absorbing the impact. And finally, if running barefoot, a person naturally runs on their forefoot, an evolutionary protection mechanism.

But is really all it’s cracked up to be?

The New York Times Well Blog focused on this issue this week, highlighting the Finnish study along with other research that has been done on a runner’s strike. The conclusion was that neither strike will completely eliminate your risk for injury. If you heel strike, you stress your knee, possibly leading to conditions like patellofemoral stress syndrome. If you forefoot strike, you jolt your ankle and Achilles’ tendon, increasing risk for issues with  your Achilles’ and plantar fascittis.

And while many people argue that forefoot striking makes you faster, many elite runners also heel strike. The best kind of strike is the one that works for the individual runner, especially if that runner has previous injuries that may be exacerbated by a particular running form. If you’re curious what kind of runner you are, come on by the store and we’ll be happy to do a gait analysis on you to see how you look and what kind of shoe is right for you.

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