You may be the fastest runner but quickly slowed down or not even make it to the starting line if you land an injury. Does foot strike play a role in injury prevention? If you follow any running blogs or magazines, you have seen a litany of articles on rearfoot (heel) striking versus midfoot or forefoot striking. Some articles have been written that attribute many running injuries to heel striking while other articles have bee entitled “Is Heel Striking Really Bad?” The stark contrast in ideas can be confusing, but hopefully my explanation can bring some clarity.
The known benefit of midfoot and forefoot striking is that you are less likely to over stride. Researchers have consistently agreed that over striding increases your risk for injury. Over striding= foot strike or initial contact in front of the body beyond your center of gravity. On the contrary, many people who over stride are heel strikers. Hence, the negative vibes towards heel striking.
Does that mean everyone should be a midfoot or forefoot striker? No! Heel striking is not necessarily bad as long as you are not over striding, and converting your foot strike when it is not right for you to do so can increase your risk for injury. A few important factors that should be considered before altering your foot strike are your injury history, years of running experience with your current foot strike, strength and flexibility. These factors are all unique to YOU so there is NOT a one size fits all for running gait. Adjusting your cadence is a safer and more effective way to decrease your risk for running injuries than adopting a new foot strike.
Cadence= # of steps per minute. The optimal cadence is said to be at least 180 steps/minute. If you are stepping at a higher rate, you will limit over striding. You can also maintain your heel strike or naturally adjust to a midfoot or forefoot strike. Whenever you make any adjustments to your running gait, do it in increments of 5-10% allowing your body time to adapt to the new pattern.