Thursday, January 24, 2013

Midfoot or heel striker?

Well, shit.

I spent a good part of my writing residency in Nebraska teaching my feet to land mid-stride instead of heel strike, and now the New York Times comes along and says that it might have been for nothing.

Heel striker? Probably not, but hey, I like his shoes. Source

Here's the story, but if you don't want to link, I'll use my stunning journalistic talents and summarize.

A study in a journal with a really strange title (PLoS One) highlighted the results of a group of what the Times called "barefoot tribespeople in Kenya" that pretty much shoots holes in the whole bare- foot-mid-or-forefoot-strike-is-best running philosophy.

According to the article, evolutionary anthropologist zeroed in on the Daasanach, a tribe in northern Kenya that, while physically active, doesn't follow a tradition of competitive distance running.

And guess what?

When they ran, almost all of them landed on their heels.

Here's what the Times said, "When the researchers had the 38 Daasanach tribespeople run unshod along a track fitted, as in the Harvard study, with a pressure plate, they found that these traditionally barefoot adults almost all landed first with their heels, especially when they were asked to run at a comfortable, distance-running pace. For the group, that pace averaged about 8 minutes per mile, and 72 percent of the volunteers struck with their heels while achieving it. Another 24 percent struck with the midfoot. Only 4 percent were forefoot strikers."

It went on to say that when sprinting, most of the Daasanach runners landed more on the forefoot, closer to their toes.

But I found this, toward the end of the article, very, very interesting: "In a 2012 study of more than 2,000 racers at the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, 94 percent struck the ground with their heels, and that included many of the frontrunners."

I guess the point is that we should all run in whatever footstrike pattern feels the most comfortable with our body motion and form, and the hell with what the magazines and so-called "experts" tell us. Because when you think of it, that while this whole midfoot strike craze has been a huge boom for the running shoe industry, it's caused a lot of runners to try and change something that may have never meant to be changed.


  1. Yup. You should see my husband run. He looks like an 80 year old man picking up a quarter off the ground...but damn, the guy is fast. Don't fix what isn't broken, right?

  2. I have to admit what I found interesting is that they found a tribe who DOES NOT follow a tradition of competitive running :) I agree that if it works for you why change it...but, I've also heard of many and am one of those who now has a midfoot strike and has been avoiding injury for over a year now (I hate writing that because I always feel I am tempting the injury gods :))...but, again...this works for me...I'm certainly not trying to convince anyone else! Like everything else, it's all about what works for each of us :)