Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Heels Vs. Forefeet: Which Is Better?

If you're like most runners, you are very concerned with your form. If you're a sprinter, marathoner, or somewhere in between, you are probably always looking for ways to get that extra edge so you can finish a little faster. Where you strike your foot when running has a lot to do with your speed and natural running form.
The running stride has two parts: the support phase is the part of the cycle in which one foot is planted on the ground, and the recovery phase is when both feet are off the ground, with the trail leg moving forward in anticipation of the next movement. The foot is actually only on the ground for a quarter of a second, and the total time between one footstrike and the next is 0.7 seconds, for a stride rate of 180 per second.
Many distance runners will tell you that landing on the forefoot is the only way to run. But exercise physiologist Ross Tucker points out on his website Sports Science that what works for one runner will probably not work for another runner. There is no scientific difference that proves landing on the forefoot is "better" for distance runners. Tucker cites a study of elite Japanese runners where 75% landed on their heels, 24% on their midfoot, and only 1% on their forefoot. The forefoot ideal may just be a myth.
Running coach and author Rick Morris, writer for the website Running Planet, says that heel-striking is tantamount to braking the body and is a sign of overstriding. Morris believes the best place to strike on the foot is midfoot and when the landing leg is directly under the runner's center of mass.
In all reality, overthinking where you land on your foot is less important than training hard, sticking to your natural form (what does your body do naturally?),  and perhaps watching a video gait analysis to determine where your foot lands. Dr. Tucker states that the small percentage of elite runners who strike midfoot may be a function of their running speed. They don't run fast because they land father forward, they land farther forward because they run fast. Tinkering with your running style may only cause sore limbs and aggravation on your part.
If you are an athlete and are experiencing foot pain, call our Newington, Kensington, or Middletown office to make an appointment.
Craig M. Kaufman, DPM
Connecticut Foot Care Centers
Sports Medicine Podiatrist in CT
Podiatrist in Newington
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