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It has been reported that up to 95% of all runners instinctively strike the ground with their heel first. Meanwhile, running experts and shoe companies have been pushing hard for change for quite some time, proposing with vigour that mid-foot and even fore-foot striking is the better way to go. Their
argument goes that by landing further forward on the foot, it decreases landing loads on muscles, joints and tendons, and in the process makes you a more efficient and faster runner. Some claim that we have become overly reliant on cushioned shoes that brace our impact to the point that we no longer recognise the damage of landing heel first.
Despite these assertions, there exists no hard proof that mid-foot/fore-foot striking reduces injuries. What is true is that some people, often high-level runners, naturally land on the mid-foot (they tend to be “biomechanically perfect, with wide forefeet, neutral arches, and flexible calves”) but the larger issue is the conversion of natural heel-strikers to try to alter their landing pattern. Anecdotal evidence suggests that inexperienced runners attempting to make this change often develop injuries such as Achilles Tendinitis and Plantar Fasciitis and, in some cases, even metatarsal stress fractures.
In fact, studies have shown that recreational runners are more efficient striking heel first. The results of one study confirmed that walking with a heel-first strike pattern “reduced the metabolic cost of walking by 53%.” This, in large part, demonstrates why slower runners usually make initial contact with their heels.
As well, most recreational runners clearly stated during research that heel-striking is more comfortable than mid/fore-foot striking and video evidence showed that the transition to minimalist footwear by this group of runners did not significantly alter their strike patterns.The fallout is that contrary to what many ‘experts’ suggest, heel striking is safe and, for many, a more efficient way to run. 95% of runners can’t possibly all be wrong.
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