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Forefoot running

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Muddy Boots, Feb 6, 2007.

  1. Muddy Boots

    Muddy Boots Welcome New Poster

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    I have been following this really interesting thread on a triathlon forum about forefoot running.

    Apparently there seems to be a reduction in the number of athletes that have previously suffered with plantar fasciitis, ITB, anterior knee pain and compartment syndrome when adopting this running style.
    There has been no cases of achilles tendoniitis as a result of this uptake of the new running style on the forum.
    Seems strange to me having undertaken many assessments and positivley encouraged athletes to heel strike whilst running.

    For the distances covered we are looking at anything from 5k to 30k for the Iron Man events. Of the people that have written in most report an increase in their speed and some have moved off using their orthotics as they are now symptom free.

    Any one else had experiences of this?
  2. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member

  3. slaveboy

    slaveboy Member

    i have seen several people using the pose technique who have never been injured until they began doing this. The ones i have seen so far normally come in with achilles tendonitis or calf pulls/tears

  4. User7

    User7 Active Member

    We as a species, or series of species, ran barefoot for some 150,000 years. To my knowledge, running barefoot is "forefoot" running (although it looks to me as though the heel does touch down first in these runners, but it only touches, and does not "strike"). Does anyone really think that the squishy "high tech" running shoes developed in the last twenty years should compell us all to run with heels striking, after all that time? The only thing that ought to be suprising, to my mind, is that longtime heel strikers are finding such an easy transition to forefoot striking, since it seems to demand much more from the ankle plantarflexors.

    From what I've read of the Pose technique, it calls for a significant forward body lean, which increases demand on the plantarflexors even more - past limits for some.
  5. Barefoot running does not prevent an individual from being a heel striker during running. The actual position of plantar foot contact (i.e. heel, midfoot forefoot) during running is quite variable and is affected by many factors including presence or absence of shoe, type of shoe being worn, surface being run on, speed of running, tightness of soleus, presence of ankle equinus, and technique variations instilled by coaches who proclaim they "know" the best running style for every runner.

    The Pose technique is just another fad that will wilt away with time, like all the other fads I have seen come and go during my 35 years of being a runner. I have many runner-patients, and runner-friends who have tried the Pose technique, got injured and went back to their old style of running. It is not for everybody.

    By the way, Mr. or Ms. User7, the revolution in the running shoe industry is more like 35 years old, not 20 years old. In addition, please define the difference between a "heel touch" and a "heel strike". I have never heard heel contact during running being described as "heel touch" vs "heel strike" and am interested in the source or reference for your new and interesting terminology.
  6. User7

    User7 Active Member


    The barefoot running style I refer to is that that I have seen in those who have been habitually unshod since birth, or habitually run barefoot. I recently observed barefoot running in Laos, where the majority of rural folk wear no footwear (although flipflops are becoming more popular). In this group we can eliminate three of the factors you note as determinate of heel striking: presence of shoes, type of shoe and dogmatic coaching. Equinus and soleus tightness must be very rare indeed in these populations, as most habitually barefoot cultures are also squatting cultures. Squatting is antithetical to soleus tightness. Equinus influences would tend to promote forefoot striking anyway. So that leaves speed of running and surface/slope as factors that can promote heel striking while barefoot. I suggest that in these populations heel striking is not observed, or only rarely - in particular speed/surface/slope dependent situations. As our ancestors were habitually unshod, I assume they also were not heel strikers.

    As far as "heel touch" vs. "heel strike", this is simply descriptive, and based on observation. For example, the barefoot runner Ken Saxton (runningbarefoot.org) calls himself a forefoot striker, but upon a close look at the videos and photos on his website one will note that his heel does touch down prior to mid or forefoot contact. I say "touch", and not "strike", because it appears to me that there is a distinct difference between his running style and that of "heel strikers". So, barefoot runners and some shod runners may call themselves "forefoot strikers", and I won't argue with them, as they obviously experience their forefeet striking, but it looks to me like their heels touch the ground first, at least on a horizontal surface.
  7. I would imagine that the benifits noted on the triathlon forum are linked to changing ones mechanics, and thus creating an advoidence/resting of an injured structure! It would be interesting to see how many people had no benifit's or over time found a development of an additional problem.

    I would consider myself a mid/forefoot striker, and video analysis has shown that there is very little heel contact through the running cycle. I was once adviced to adopt a heel striking running gait, and aside from the the fact that I found this very difficult I also found that it had a detriamental affect on performanance!!!

    I have seen video analysis of top runners, from sprints to long distance's and noted that the majority of the speed boys (and girls) natrally have a mid/forefoot strike pattern! Is this one of the reasons they can run so quick in the first place?

    regards to all


    p.s. slaveboy, get that reply slip in the post, and put the kettle on!!
  8. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    Hi everyone

    I'm following a tread in a Portuguese forum were Mid Foot/Forefoot strike versus Rear foot is discussed.

    I wold like to know your opinions on this

    Are any studies on this?

    Does really Mid/Forefoot reduces ground reaction?

    Can one say that one or the other is the "Correct"/"Natural" way of running?

    Tank you for your input on this
  9. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I think that the crux of the problem is the lack of evidence.

    However, from what I understand to consciously alter the pattern of rearfoot vs midfoot consumes more energy and, therefore, be a more inefficient gait.

    I recall the writings of some of the "early" inspirational middle and long distance running coaches (ie Arthur Lydiard; the eccentric Percy Cerutty) who produced numerous gold medal winners, all talked about keeping to what the runner did naturally. Without the use of science they new it was harder to run when consciously trying to alter the gait.
  10. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Foot Strike Patterns of Runners at the 15-km Point During an Elite-Level Half Marathon .
    Hasegawa H, Yamauchi T, Kraemer WJ. Hasegawa, H., T. Yamauchi, and W.J. Kraemer.
    J. Strength Cond. Res. 21(3):888-893. 2007.-
  11. As I said, most runners are rearfoot strikers and as runners increase running speed, they will move from being rearfoot strikers to midfoot strikers to forefoot strikers. Trying to train a natural rearfoot striker to be a forefoot striker, I believe, is nothing more than another fad that will soon pass. As more evidence accumulates, it will be found that the rearfoot striking running pattern is not harmful and is actually a more efficient mode of running for the majority of shod runners at running speeds less than 10 miles per hour (6 minute mile pace). You can quote me on that.
  12. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

  13. gangrene1

    gangrene1 Active Member

    Can athletes be trained to run in a certain specific style? One of my colleague's patient was saying that he is trying to get into Chi running by starting off on a treadmill. How is that possible?
  14. CraigT

    CraigT Well-Known Member

  15. User7

    User7 Active Member

    Oh no, he was quoted in context.
  16. CraigT

    CraigT Well-Known Member

    I don't think I said anything about context... and that is a very defensive reply... do you have an interest in this User7???

    I find it interesting that there is a current trend to create a shoe which does nothing. How is this different to something like a Dunlop Volley or any other shoe with only a thin rubber sole and no stiffness in the shank?:confused:
    While I see the potential theoretical benefits of 'training the feet' and barefoot running, I see a fundermental flaw in the argument for them. My personal belief is that it is the terrain that we are running on more than the shoes that is the problem- hard and regular which never challenges the foot.I do not see how an ultraflexible shoe would change this. I guess I liken this to Physios suggestinig that you can strengthen your postural muscles by sitting in a bean bag.

    Now if the runner is on a variety of terrain, this may be different. I think that specific training on a variety of terrain would be of much greater benefit than a simple shoe change. Perhaps this type of training done in a flexible shoe would be even more beneficial... Incidently, this is what the people who actually designed the Nike Free suggest - it is a training tool
    Does the BOG shoe create artificial irregular terrain???? That would be a neat trick...
  17. User7

    User7 Active Member

    I do have a strong personal interest in it, but not commercial interest, and I've no relationship whatever with the product or persons associated with it, etc.

    Craig T, I apologize for the tone of my last post.

    However, I happen to think that this is a direction of shoe design that is an inevitability and a necessity. The collection of quotes on the site mentioned, by the likes of Nigg, et al. (including in their original contexts), clearly supports this. I'm not alone in the opinion that the force that prevents the major athletic shoe companies from going in this direction is the weight of two decades of marketing supporting the high-end runners we see today. Nike's niche line, "Free", is really a countermarketing campaign.

    I believe that this topic lies in an enormous blndspot of podiatric medicine. I don't quite understand the stubborn nature of this blindspot, and it makes me a bit testy, as it appears to me to represent an insular and rather stubborn attachment to a paradigm of shoe design replete with unfounded, traditionalist and, frankly, foolish assumptions.

    Regarding the Volley, perhaps you're right that hard, homogeneous surfaces are more to "blame" than shoes, but the counterargument, made by the likes of Simon Spooner, is easy to find by searching on this site. All the same, as shoes are designed now, rigid and more or less homogeneous, even if the terrain is uneven the foot is hardly challenged, "trained" or "strengthened" - for the plantar environment remains relatively unchanged inside the shoe.

    I agree that the real trick would be to make a shoe that was a semi-random terrain stimulus generator.
  18. Shoes such as these are just another "best shoe" that runners will run in for awhile, the shoe company will have all sorts of testimonials to claim "how superior" they are, many runners will like them and many other runners will get injured from wearing them. What else is new?......nothing.....same old story!

    If I was so worried about "shoes injuring my feet" then I would run barefoot on grass, and avoid the cost of buying these expensive shoes in the first place. However, since I don't worry about my running shoes causing me injuries, then I will stick with what I have done over the past 35+ years of running, and will recommend the same for my many runner patients.....wear running shoes that are not gimmicks but are of time tested designs, until research proves otherwise.
  19. just to keep going on this thread, and the debate re running surface...I have been feeling lately that running surface and importantly the type of running shoe worn for that surface has an impact on running gait.

    too explain... I can not run as fast over distance on the road as i can off road and even on the track, even when running the same distance. A few seconds I wouldn't worry about but the differance can be as much as 10 secs per mile with a greater percieved work rate. i feel that the extra energy cost is due in shock at contact. However, I am a midfoot striker. For track races i would use a spike shoe, for x-c the same and on the road a racing shoe. I was wondering if it is infact the heal hight that is responsible for the change in performance...in other words the low heel height on a spike shoe is allowing a nateral ( for me) gait pattern and the relatively high heel (by comparrison) on the road shoe is encourageing a slight heel strike and possibly a brakeing moment!

    don't know if that makes sense, just thinking through things. Does anybody have any thoughts?

    Dr Kirby wrote:
    "rearfoot striking running pattern is not harmful and is actually a more efficient mode of running for the majority of shod runners at running speeds less than 10 miles per hour (6 minute mile pace). You can quote me on that."

    how about above 10 miles per hour?



    p.s. I have purchased a pair of racers with a lower profile...will see what happens!
  20. User7

    User7 Active Member

    I can't cite the source just now, but I recall reading about a loss of energy return when running on cushioned surfaces. (I do recall Irene Davis doing something on this) This is one argument advanced by some barefoot runners: that running without energy absorbing cushioning underfoot improves efficiency.

    As far as heel height goes, we know that kinematics change, both distal, proximal and at the ankle joint, when wearing shoes with a positive heel-height differential. Perhaps the reduced joint angles at the ankle (achilles tendon) and midfoot (plantar ligaments, pf, intrinsics, etc.) results in reduced elastic storage and return (as well as reduced stress) in these structures.

    Kevin Kirby has argued on this site for a "leaf-spring" conceptualization of the foot's intrinsic muscles, tendons and ligaments. I agree. The rope-pulley-gremlin model of muscle function that comes naturally to mind belies what we know of dynamic muscle function. It seems likely that elastic potential in the active structures (intrinsics, pre-tibial muscles) is greater than usually assumed. When used explosively, muscles tend to act more like tendons: performing a pseudo-isometric contraction at a particular length while the tendons store and release elastic energy. And there is also evidence that the actual contractile units of the muscles themselves are elastic in nature.

    William Rossi argued that our use of heeled shoes from early childhood reduced our ability, as a culture, to run efficiently. He explained the success of African mid and long-distance runners by pointing out that they didn't wear shoes as children (or even as adults). He was a theorist, not a scientist, and I'm not aware of any evidence to back up that claim.

    He made a number of other assertions about the negative effects of shoe wearing on foot health, some highly likely, others probably mistaken. As a whole his work contains a large number of hypotheses that should be tested. But where's the money for that?
  21. Gareth:

    Above 10 miles per hour, there are many runners who become more midfoot strikers than rearfoot strikers. Also, most runners do not race or even train at this speed, but at the high school and college level, most male cross country and track athletes race their events at faster than 6 minute/mile pace, so more of them will be midfoot strikers at this running speed.

    Racing flats are typically made with a much thinner sole than training flats and are made with a lower heel height differential. These design modifications will greatly reduce the weight of the racing flat when compared to the training flat, which will aid in the speed of running, since research has shown that running with extra weight on the feet requires more metabolic energy than running with less weight on the feet (Catlin MJ, Dressendorfer RH: Effect of shoe weight on the energy cost of running. Medicine and Science in Sports. 11: 80, 1979). This research finding is most likely due to the increased moment of inertia that occurs in the lower extremity for the knee extensors/flexors and hip flexors during the forward recovery phase (i.e. swing phase) of running.

    I noticed, during my 20 years as a competitive distance runner, that I ran faster with racing flats and or when I ran barefoot. Whether this is due to psychologically "feeling faster" with lighter shoes/no shoes, a decrease in moment of inertia in my lower extremities, or a change in the length/tension relationship of the gastrocnemius-soleus complex, I don't know. However, trial and error in shoe design over decades has shown that the lower heeled, thinner soled, lighter shoe design is preferable for most racing situations for most runners. Of course, the spring-soled shoes that are now being manufactured may be significantly changing that philosophy in racing flat design....only time will tell.
  22. CraigT

    CraigT Well-Known Member

    Going back a little now...
    My problem with this argument is that essentially these people are going to the polar opposite of what is generally recommended over the past 20 years. While I understand the argument against shoes which are too padded or restrictive, i have trouble believing that using a shoe which has minimal support is an all encompassing solution. I just feel the answer lies somewhere in between.
    How many patients have you seen with problems that you can relate directly to footwear? Is is a lack of support or too much?? Most of the time it will be a lack of support...
    I prefer the approach of companies such as Loco shoes who have created a range of shoes which are not too complicated and have reasonable support. They also do not plan to change them at all for 5 vears so that if a runner finds a shoe they like, they can still buy them in a couple of years time without worrying that they have changed. This company was started by frustrated runners.
    Were they barefoot on concrete and hard even surfaces???
    I am an advocate of barefoot for kids so long as their feet are safe, and they are on a terrain which challenges the foot- not that easy!!! We have to stop fixing footpaths/pavements/sidewalks...
    By the way- don't make the assumption that african runners don't have foot problems... the Kenyan runners I have seen have many of the same problems I saw in elite runners in Australia.

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