Fore-Foot Strike and Midfoot Strike


Forefoot Strike

A fore-foot strike consists of landing only on the ball of the foot.

During forefoot striking the ankle is plantarflexed (toes point slightly down).  Landing occurs on the outside of the foot, more specifically on the ball of the foot just below the 4th and 5th metatarsal heads [1].  As you land, the ankle begins to dorsiflex and the rest of the foot along with the heel slowly move towards the ground [1].

Forefoot Strike & Impact Forces

Throughout human history, it is likely that runners landed with no single, specific foot strike, and rather landed with a variety of foot strikes including forefoot, midfoot and heel strikes.  However, Lieberman suggests that the most common form of foot strike was a forefoot strike [1]. This kind of strike has been found to lead to lower impact forces which may lead to lower rates of injury.

Due to the biomechanics and landing pattern of the forefoot strike, this kind of collision produces a very slow rise in force with no
distinct impact transient. There is ESSENTIALLY NO IMPACT TRANSIENT in a forefoot strike (see below) [1].


In Daniel Lieberman’s Skeletal Biology Lab at Harvard University, research has found that even on hard surfaces (a steel force plate) runners who forefoot strike have impact forces that are 7 times lower than shod runners who heel strike [1].

FFS (forefoot strike) is usually seen in barefoot runners or runners who wear minimalist shoes.  If a runner decides to change their running foot strike, Lieberman suggests that to maintain or acquire a FFS, a runner should wear minimalist shoes and should follow a professional’s recommendations on how to best change their foot strike [1, 3].


Midfoot Strike

A midfoot strike consists of the runner landing simultaneously on the heel and ball of the foot.

Research has found that a midfoot strike allows for better redistribution of pressure throughout the foot, preventing stress and over-use injuries [2].  In his Rocker Sole Shoe study, Jason T. Long concluded that a cushioned, rocker sole shoe redistributes midfoot pressures without exacerbating hindfoot and forefoot pressures.  This means that the double rocker sole shoe successfully maintains functional running level while relieving pressure for runners who have a midfoot strike [2].

 

 

Tips on Transitioning to Forefoot or Midfoot Striking

Forefoot striking (barefoot or in minimal shoes) requires use of muscles in your legs and feet that are probably very weak. More specifically, running this way requires much more strength in your calf muscles  and arches than heel striking because these muscles must contract eccentrically (while lengthening) to ease the heel onto the ground following the landing [1]. Novice forefoot and midfoot strikers typically experience tired feet, and very stiff, sore calf muscles. This is normal and eventually goes away, but you can do several things to make the transition a little bit easier:

  • Build up slowly! Don’t overdo it because you will probably injure yourself if you do too much too soon.
    • Start by walking around barefoot
    • First week: no more than a quarter mile to one mile every other day.
    • Increase your distance by no more than 10% per week.  Always allowing yourself extra rest time if you’re sore.
    • Build gradually. It takes months to make the transition.
  • It is essential to stretch your calves and hamstrings carefully and regularly as you make the transition. Massage your calf muscles and arches frequently to break down scar tissue. This will help your muscles to heal and get stronger.
  • Listen to your feet. Stop if your arches, top of your foot or anything else hurts.  Sometimes the pain can travel to your hips and lower back [1].
Information was obtained from Lieberman’s online website.  Click here to learn more.

Bibliography

Articles & Studies

[1] http://barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/4BiomechanicsofFootStrike.html.  Accessed 4/10/2012

[2] Article: “Biomechanics of the Double Rocker Sole Shoe: Gait Kinematics and Kinetics” by Jason T. Longan

[3] Article: “Foot Strike Patterns and Collision Forces in Habitually Barefoot versus Shod Runners” by Daniel Lieberman

Videos

forefoot strike video: http://www.youtube.com/user/skeletonheb.  Accessed 4/10/2012

Images

forefoot strike image: http://www.runblogger.com/2010/07/my-barefoot-running-footstrike.  Accessed 4/16/2012

midfoot strike image: http://newbap.wordpress.com.  Accessed 4/16/2012

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