If you pick up any running magazine these days, you’re bound to come across one of the latest trends: forefoot running. Several methods have been created around this concept, Chi Running, Pose Running and the Evolution Method to name the more popular incarnations. Although slightly different in their methodology, the basic concept is the same, namely that when running you strike with the forefoot instead of the more conventional heel strike.
Many supporters claim that is method is the best method for running, saying that it has less injuries and is more efficient. I think we should look at these claims.
1. Ok, so forefoot strike running is supposed to be the best. Logic would then tell us that the majority of elite runners would use this method, correct? Research done at Sapporro International Half Marathon found that of 283 runners, 75% did a heel strike, roughly 25% had a mid-foot strike and roughly 1 % (4 out of 283 runners) did a forefoot strike. None of the forefoot strikers were in the top 4 positions. Do all those elite runners have it wrong? Hmmm… makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
2. Many proponents of forefoot running claim that there are less injuries with their method. Let’s be clear on this, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO RESEARCH THAT SHOWS FOREFOOT RUNNING TO HAVE LESS INJURIES. End of discussion. If anything, I see an increase in difficult-to-treat forefoot joint problems in forefoot runners in my chiropractic clinic in Nanaimo.
3. Let’s look at how you naturally run. If I asked you to sprint across the parking lot, you’d run on your forefoot. If I asked you to run to the neighbouring town, you’d run with a heel strike. What makes us think we can improve on what our bodies naturally want to do? Yes, there is some research that says that barefoot runners tend to run more on their mid or forefoot, but barefoot running is a whole other discussion (perhaps a future blog post).
4. Finally, let’s look at anatomy. There are a series of bones in the ankle. The bones at would absorb impact with a heel strike (the talus and calcaneous) are big and dense. Those that absorb impact with forefoot running (the cuboid and cuneiforms) are much smaller, roughly the size of an ice cube. Doesn’t it make sense that the larger stronger bones are the ones designed for impact?
Don’t follow the trend, follow your brain.
If forefoot running works for you, great, keep doing it. If you’re thinking about changing your running style, think long and hard. Those promises of faster times and less injuries may be unfulfilled. Let’s not try to re-invent running. I know this is a controversial topic. Leave a post below and let’s have a discussion. If you have a running injury, why not contact us at Pure Chiropractic, Nanaimo, 250-585-8866.
Dr. Jason Hare