Forefoot Striking vs Heel Strike: Which is right for me?
Debate abounds about the switch to minimalist shoes.
Recently several shoe companies have began reducing the heel to toe drop from a conventional eleven millimeters to levels substationally lower. But how do you know if you are ready to switch?
Jay Diacharry, a physical therapist and director of UVA’s Endurance Sports Lab, recently wrote an article for Running Times about the switch to minimalist shoes. He discusses in the article specific exercises that one can perform to determine if he or she is ready for the switch. Read more here.
Early this year, I wrote several articles that also addresses switching to minimalist shoes. This three part series illustrated the importance of using a measured approach when transitioning and can be found here.
But why make the switch? What is the allure of running in minimalist shoes? The debate centers on the notion that heel striking is detrimental to runners and possibly leads to increased rates of injuries. By switching to a minimalist shoe, you can encourage a midfoot or forefoot strike pattern that can help alleviate the “braking force” and “shock” of hitting the ground with your heel first. By reducing the “impact force” you rely more on the elastic components of your muscles to help reduce forces across your joints. By reducing these forces, you lessen the rate of injury and allow yourself to run longer and more efficiently. Dr. Mark Cucuzella, a family physician and director of The Natural Running Center,
illustrates this best in his recent video, located here.
Regardless if you are a new runner or an experienced one, the concept of proper running form and foot strike should not be overlooked when treating runners. Running is like any other sport, if you want to increase speed and efficiency, then form drills and running specific drills are a must. Think about any other sports that you may engage in – from golf to football – all have sport specific drills associated with them.
The old saying, “Practice makes perfect!” isn’t without merit. If you want to increase your speed, meet PR goals, and increase your running economy, then it is important to use all the tools in your arsenal to achieve your goals. It first starts with having the right foundation to work from. Meeting with a physical therapist in conjunction with a running coach, can help you maximize your potential. By working on form drills and foot placement when you are running, one can live life stronger everyday.
*Matthew Ammons is a doctor of physical therapy and the Clinical Director of Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Redmill clinic in Virginia Beach.