24 May 2009

Heel or mid/fore foot striker - Which one are you?

The subject of heel striking vs mid or fore foot striking is one which I've been taking a key interest in of late. I sense a growing awareness and movement to the benefits of landing softly on your mid foot rather than the traditional heel striking.

Proponents of a mid foot landing promote this style as a more natural style of running, which seeks to emulate the way one runs if they were running barefoot. When running barefoot do you land on your heel? Chances are you will be wanting to land on your mid foot as continued heel striking would soon result in some heavy bruising to the padding on your heel. Proponents therefore surmise that its safer to adopt a mid foot landing as this is the more natural style which the human body is better suited to.

Another reason often put forward by those in the mid foot camp is that the running shoe industry has in a round about sort of way contributed to the problem by manufacturing shoes which are heavily built up with cushioning and support through the heel. The running shoe industry has therefore for years concentrated on the development of shoes designed to minimise the the adverse effects of heel striking, therefore encouraging continued heel striking.

Danny Dreyer, founder of Chi Running , is one that favours a mid foot landing. Danny's view is that knee injuries can commonly be traced back to heavy heel striking. Generally a heavy heel stiker will be coming down hard on their heel with their foot in front of their centre of gravity. What then happens is that you momentarily brake as your foot stops and your body catches up. The knee joint then is forced to take the brunt of the forces generated on landing.

The Chi Running method promotes a style whereby the forward lean moves your centre of gravity slightly forward so that you are then almost forced to land on the mid foot with your feet beneath your centre of gravity. Rather than a heavy heel strike sending forces up the leg to the knee, the result is a landing on the mid foot with a slightly bent knee and therefore none undue stress to the joints.

Back to the subject of running shoes and it seems that one company has finally answered the calls for a running shoe for the mid foot runner. Newton Running has manufactures a range of running shoes specifically for mid and fore foot runners. I've been following with interest the growing popularity of Newton Running shoes and though I haven't tried them myself yet, (very hard to get hold of down under, but they are coming) I can't wait to get some of these for myself. They will definitely be on my shopping list when I next head out to buy a pair of running shoes.

The unique soles of a pair of Newton trainers. Note the red actuator lugs on the forefoot. On landing these are depressed into hollow chambers inside the sole to act as shock absorbers and also to help lever you forward on take off. photo by Morton Liebach

If you haven't already, check out the Newton Running website to learn more about this exciting development in running shoe design. You can also read first hand from fellow blogger, Steve Speirs who has recently converted to Newtons.

I know this can be a hot topic so I'd be interested in others views on this one.


buryblue May 25, 2009 at 7:56 AM  

I do think the advice 5-10 years ago was to land on the heel. This seemed to be the advice I read in Runners World.This was a style said to be most econimical.

Weather it was the way I run or shoe design I certainly noticed that my shoes used to wear at the rear heel on one side. Now they wear in the mid sole but as to weather this is the shoe design or my having changed my running style I am not sure.

Ewen May 25, 2009 at 10:08 PM  

20-odd years ago I used to do a lot of barefoot running and I'd say the mid-foot touched the ground first.

For me it depends a little on the speed - if I'm jogging slowly (6min/k+) I slip into heel landing. When I'm running faster (5:20/k or quicker) I think about having the foot travelling backwards on landing mid-foot - trying to minimise breaking and having a short time on stance.

The Nike Frees do a similar thing to the Newtons. There are other 'mid-foot' shoes out now too. Definitely worth trying.

Hua June 4, 2009 at 8:04 AM  

Hi Bruce,

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chris mcpeake June 6, 2009 at 8:23 AM  

Heel strike dont know if that best tho. Wears out the shoes pretty quickly

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