Emerging Evidence On Footstrike Patterns In Running
- Volume 27 - Issue 6 - June 2014
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Is There A Correlation Between Rearfoot Striking And Injury Rates?
There has also been much speculation from the barefoot running and minimalist running shoe advocates that forefoot and midfoot striking running must be the best ways to run since rearfoot striking running results in increased impact forces, which they suggest causes more running injuries. Helping to promote these ideas, Lieberman and coworkers claimed that midfoot and forefoot striking running “may protect the feet and lower limbs from some of the impact related injuries.” However, the available research studies on footstrike patterns and running injury rates do not support the conjecture of the barefoot and minimalist running shoe advocates.
In 2003, Kleindienst prospectively studied 471 runners and found no difference in injury rates between forefoot and rearfoot striking runners.18 In 2005, Walther prospectively studied 1,203 runners and found no differences in injury rates between forefoot and rearfoot striking runners.19 In 1997, Nigg prospectively studied a group of runners and found that there were no significant differences in running injury frequency among those with high-, medium- or low-impact peaks, and those people with higher impact loading rates had fewer running-related injuries than those people with lower impact loading rates.20 Within his latest book on the sports shoe biomechanics, Nigg offered the following opinion: “Currently, there is no conclusive evidence that impact forces during heel-toe running are responsible for development of running-related injuries.”21
Current Insights On Running Form And Efficiency
Much of the media hype over the past few years regarding barefoot and minimalist shoe running has also spawned the development of a number of “alternative running techniques” that have been promoted and marketed to the running communities. These alternative running techniques invite runners to pay for instructional courses on how to learn to run with “better form.” The two most popular alternative running techniques include the Pose Method® of Running and Chi Running®, both of which are based on the notion that rearfoot striking is not only an inefficient “running form” but will lead to an increased incidence of running injuries.22,23
It is interesting to note that the only scientific research that has studied whether these alternative running forms are indeed more metabolically efficient came from a group of researchers, one of whom was Nicholas Romanov, the inventor of the Pose Method of Running.24 In their 2005 study, 16 sub-elite triathletes were divided into one group that was trained to run with the “Pose” method and a control group that maintained their self-selected running technique over a 12-week period. The researchers found that the “Pose” runners became less metabolically efficient in comparison to the runners who maintained their self-selected running form. The oxygen cost for the “Pose” athletes was 7.6 percent greater than the oxygen cost for the control athletes. This indicated that the Pose Method of Running, instead of being a more efficient form of running, was actually a less efficient style of running than what the runners had self-selected as their preferred running form.