By Anna Walsh – Physiotherapist
Running technique, in particular foot strike patterns, have received a lot of attention in the public eye in the last few months. There has wrongly tended to be a “one size fits all” marketing approach in promoting a forefoot strike running pattern. Is a heel strike, midfoot strike or a forefoot strike the better technique?
A private practice physiotherapist who is currently undertaking a master’s research project looking at Achilles tendinopathy and lower limb biomechanics, found that 75-85% of runners are heel strikers, with only a very small percentage being forefoot strikers. Whilst his research is focusing on distance runners, one would assume these figures differ significantly for the sprinting population.
Fatigue will affect the pattern of running, typically with more people tending to move towards a heel strike pattern as fatigue sets in, towards the end of an event or training session. This will in turn dramatically change the load going through the Achilles tendon. Not only this, but there will also be a chain reaction up the lower limb; the effect of such a change on each of the knee, hip, pelvis and trunk would also need to be considered.
So despite media attention promoting forefoot strike in running, one should be cautious when purposely forcing a particular strike pattern during running, as this may potentially lead to injury not only of the foot, but also of these other body parts which make up the important links in the chain of the human body.