Heel, midfoot, forefoot striking and running shoes

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I'm sure many of you run to keep fit or need to run 2.4km for your physical fitness tests. Most of us are recreational runners. An important point that many of us overlook is the need to reduce injuries. The use of proper shoes and good running technique can reduce the risk of injuries. Running shoe "technology" has advanced so much that the price of shoes has increased from about $100 20 years ago to more than $300 now even though the shoes are manufacted in lower cost countries! When I have to pay so much for a pair of shoes, I'd better make sure I buy a pair that provides the appropriate support and cushioning for my style of running. (Hope I'll be able to find something good for $100+).

My running shoes are pretty worn out after 1 year of usage. Half the time I run on dirt trails. The rest of the time, I run on the pavement by the road, at the stadium, climb stairs or go to the gym occasionally. In the past, my shoes used to last me a few years. I don't know whether this one's falling apart because the manufacturing quality isn't as good as it used to be or I've been running much more now than in the past.

Here are pictures of the soles of my running shoes now. I'm not trying to spoil your appetite :P I'm trying to determine what type of running shoes to buy next. The way the soles are worn out indicates how I've been running, i.e. whether I am a heel/rearfoot, mid-foot or forefoot striker. I need to determine the appropriate amount of cushioning required on the base of the shoe to support my running style.




a) Heel/rearfoot striker
The majority of runners (about 75-80%) are naturally rearfoot strikers. They land on their heels. The heel strikes the ground in front of the body. This is the least efficient way of running and the runner is more prone to injuries because of the breaking effect of the method of landing. The breaking effect causes the lower legs and knees to absorb the impact resulting in knee pain and injuries. Such runners need more cushioning at the heel section.

b) Midfoot striker
About 20-25% of runners naturally land on the middle section of their feet. The heel and the ball of the foot touch the ground simultaneously with each foot strike. The feet land either under or slightly behind the body. This way of running is more efficient, faster and has lower risk of injuries compared to heel striking. It seems you can even run across ice if you land on your midfoot. Choose running shoes that are flexible throughout the entire length with cushioning throughout.

c) Forefoot striker
Forefoot strikers land on the balls of their feet, i.e. the part of the foot between the forward-most part of the arch and the end of the toes. You may have noticed that sprinters land on the balls of their feet and raise their heels when they run. Forefoot strikes enable faster running but are less efficient that heel and midfoot strikes. Even fewer people are naturally forefoot strikers compared to the other two types. Forefoot runners are less prone to knee injuries but more prone to shin splints if they run longer distances. Running shoes should have cushioning at the balls of the feet. Cushioning at the heels is not required.

Looking at the sole of my shoe: the grooves on the heel area are hardly worn out while the forefoot area is worn out. This mean that I am a forefoot striker. (Not sure why I always fall into the minority group).




Note: You can also look at your footprint after wetting your feet and running barefooted on a dry area.
A footprint with a predominant heel means you’re a rearfoot striker.
A footprint with part of the heel means you’re a midfoot striker.
A footprint with no heel means you’re a forefoot striker.

The POSE and ChiRunning techniques
In the past few years, runners have become more aware of the advantages of midfoot striking - better speed, efficiency and reduction in risk of injuries. POSE and ChiRunning training methods have been used to teach heel strikers how to learn midfoot striking. Runners need to exercise caution when trying to change their running strike. I don't need to change my running strike so I won't be trying these techniques. Sorry :P

References:
http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20090145005
http://mysite.verizon.net/jim2wr/id16.html
http://chirunning.com/blogs/danny/tag/midfoot-strike/
http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/cms/article-detail.asp?articleid=99

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just something to take note, studies have shown that running on shoes damage your lower limb. Because they take away the natural strength and support your body "acclimatized" to. The studies also shown that the more expensive the shoes, the worst it gets. However, shoes that are too cheap are not good for couch potatoes suddenly jumping into some action. Some professional athletes kept a rule of thumb to just get shoes in the range of USD100-150. There is also a reason you don't see shoe companies advertise their shoes makes you run better as it is misleading. I forgot the source for this, if my memory didn't fail me, it's from a running magazine. That's also why Nike is heading towards the "Nike Free" thing. Less support, more freedom, more flexibility, more feedback to your brain, your body automatically will take control and grow to fit.

K Mugunthan said...

If you ask me, I think shoe selection depends on the individual himself/herself. Different running styles require different type of shoes. On the other hand, the weight of an individual plays a huge part in shoe selection. As for myself, I'm able to run my ass off with or without shoes when cops are chasing me..Haha..By the way, Talking about running, Usain Bolt just broke his own world record again in the 100 metres by 0.11 seconds. That's the highest improvement in shattering a world record in the 100 metres category.
On the other hand, Kym, You're doing an excellent job with your blog. I really appreciate the way to recite things in your articles. If you were a guy, I'm sure you would have balls of steel..:)

Yu-Kym said...

You both made very good points about shoe selection. (My post was not meant to cover all aspects of shoe selection.)
I think shoes with some cushioning are good for long distance running. I can feel the difference when I run on pavement compared to dirt path and rubber running track at the stadium.
When I participated in national events many years ago, the real runners wore Panda shoes, i.e. simple China-made canvas shoes. Maybe I should switch to Panda.
K Mugunthan, can you run with stilettos? :P

Banshee said...

Oh, that post was really helpful!

I have just started running, I am still running only about 1,6... 1,7 km daily. On that sense, I am yet to find what kind of foot strike I do and what shoes is more fitable for me.

Is there anywhere I can read more about ChiRunning?

K Mugunthan said...

No noooooooooooooooooo, I can't run with stilettos. I assume that walking with it is already difficult. It can be even used as a weapon if you ask me. You girls should be thanking Andre Perugia for inventing stilettos. If you ask me, I think the inventor was a serial killer who had a fetish of killing his victims with shoes..:p

Yu-Kym said...

Banshee, sorry I don't know much about the ChiRunning technique but this guy's blog is interesting to me http://chirunning.com/blogs/danny/tag/midfoot-strike/

K Mugunthan, thank goodness he's dead otherwise I might kill him with shoes. He slowly kills his victims (women) with shoes by making them walk in stilettos... looks sexy but a real killer.

C-CUBE said...

Go get a pair of NEWTON, and this shoe is technically design for midfoot and forefoot striker.

Yu-Kym said...

Thanks! I will try to find it.