Runners: Heel Strike Or Toe Strike, Which Is Better?
Which is better, landing on the heel of your foot while running, or landing on your forefoot? That’s the question explored by Gretchen Reynolds in a recent column in the New York Times. Reynolds reminds us that several studies have shown that the vast majority–90 percent– of runners land on their heels. But does that mean that it’s better? Contrarians point out that when people run barefoot, as they were (once) intended to do, they usually land on the front of their feet. Reynolds reports that researchers at the Tampere Research Center of Sports Medicine in Tampere, Finland, operating under the assumption that the best running style was that which produced fewer injuries, set out to measure the force exerted on joints for both heel strikers and forefoot strikers. Their study, published in June in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that heel striking generated about 16 percent more force moving through the knee joint than when women landed near their forefeet. But wait: Reynolds writes that “the forefoot strikers’ legs were not immune from force. They simply absorbed it differently, with almost 20 percent more force moving through their ankles and Achilles’ tendons than among the women who hit with their heels.” Are we getting closer to an answer? Not really. The bottom line is that there is no way to avoid the potential for injury, but the Finnish research suggests that people suffering from knee problems can benefit from forefoot striking, and those who have Achilles’ tendon complaints can benefit from rearfoot striking. Read more in the New York Times.