This is a topic that is hotly debated in the running community and is often the subject of many online discussion forums. I often find the trouble with running information online is that there is SO MUCH of it. This means it can often be difficult trying to sort through the articles and find good evidence-based literature. Well, here is some information published recently alongside some of my own clinical experience.
First let’s run through the differences between the two striking patterns:
Rear Foot – This entails landing on the ground with the back third of your foot. Doing this can increase the stress on your patello-femoral joint (knee cap joint) compared to other strike patterns.
Mid/Fore foot strike – This means landing on the front third of your foot. This classically has been the desired foot strike pattern in most runners. Doing this can increase the load through muscles in the calf that extend the ankle joint and your Achilles tendon.
A great article by Bobalino & Kingsley (2021) was published to help us determine the trends in running foot strike patterns. It collected evidence from lots of different studies to culminate in some recommendations. This paper found that most runners, up to 79%, rear foot strike early with more runners changing to this pattern later into their runs. Overall, the study concluded that when it comes to long distance running performance, there is not a beneficial strike pattern.
When it comes to injuries associated with foot strike patterns, another article published in the same year by Burke A et al. found some interesting results. There was low evidence to suggest that foot strike pattern contributed to injury risk (Burke et al, 2021). Some studies showed a link between rear foot striking and an increase in running injuries, but the quality of these studies was called into question. Injuries can occur regardless of foot strike pattern, but the way your foot lands may perhaps help indicate the location and source of the injury.
Now clinically what does this all mean? In my own experience I have found most patients have a lot more trouble changing running styles and can sometimes cause injuries. Most running injuries are a combination of multiple different factors, and often does not rely simply on your foot strike pattern. Focussing more on strength deficits and overall body biomechanics can be more effective at decreasing injury risk.
Of course, these are general suggestions for recreational runners. Everyone that runs has different body make-ups, previous injuries, and biomechanics in general. Tailoring these suggestions to your often takes time and needs the help of a physio to be implemented properly. If you have any questions about this article, please get in contact with our reception team to make an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists.
Burke A, Dillon S, O’Connor S, Whyte EF, Gore S, Moran KA. Risk Factors for Injuries in Runners: A Systematic Review of Foot Strike Technique and Its Classification at Impact. Orthop J Sports Med. 2021 Sep 9;9(9)