New Study Finds Group of Heel Striking Barefoot Kenyan Runners.

Not all that is barefoot is necessarily forefoot…

You may have seen our tweet yesterday and have read this article. Or maybe, because you are a foot geek, you have seen it already.

Here’s the summary: “Jan. 9, 2013 — A recently published paper by two George Washington University researchers shows that the running foot strike patterns vary among habitually barefoot people in Kenya due to speed and other factors such as running habits and the hardness of the ground. These results are counter to the belief that barefoot people prefer one specific style of running.”

The study reported a 72 percent rearfoot landing when running barefoot at endurance pace speeds supporting the notion that speed affects landing choice (faster speeds transitioned  the runners into more midfoot / forefoot landing).  Lieberman’s Harvard study which brought much of the forefoot strike principle to the western world was often based off of sub 5 mile paced runs.

It raises the question ” If barefoot IS better, and forefoot impact IS BETTER, then, what gives?”

We think the better response is:

  • there are many variables (genetics, surface, speed, etc) that can influence foot strike patterns and this paper exemplifies that.
  • Fore foot striking in runners does lessen impact forces.
  • Forefoot striking does appear to accentuate any forefoot abnormality (ie: varus/valgus) that may be present (something we will continue to say until someone proves it otherwise).
  • forefoot striking loads the posterior compartment of the lower leg (tricep surae (gastroc soleus complex)) to a greater degree

We like a mid foot strike, not because it is the middle road, but because it supports the notion in distance running that the entire foot tripod (which is more stable) engages the ground reducing solitary forefoot and rearfoot loading issues which each have their risks and challenges and allows for a more stable contact point for the body to negotiate over.  We have pounded sand on forefoot types, and the inherent risks of forefoot strike running with each of them, from our inception.  But, when it comes to midfoot strike there doesn’t appear to be much, if any literature out there to support our opinion.  Maybe now that the forefoot and rearfoot studies are out there maybe someone will find a tribe of midfoot strikers to support our rants.

We think the key is not necessarily strike position, but rather where the foot is hitting the ground relative to the body AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, having a competent foot and lower kinetic chain and core, along with the body’s ABILITY to absorb or attenuate those forces, no matter where the foot is striking the ground.

This is no doubt the 1st in a series of papers looking at this. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

Ivo and Shawn…  The Gait Guys

here is the link:

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