When you become a runner, new words and phrases are added to your vocabulary on an almost daily basis. One such example is footstrike, which refers to how your foot lands on the ground when you run. It is important to know what many of these new words mean, particularly when it comes to purchasing running shoes and understanding your injury risk. Common footstrikes are described here.
A forefoot strike is considered to be most efficient for running. Here, a runner lands on the ball of his or her feet. Little energy is wasted between the time the foot lands, and the force used for pushing off for the next stride. Certain types of running shoes, such as those with a low heel-to-toe drop, are better for natural forefoot strikers.
While a forefoot strike may be ideal, the majority of runners are heel strikers, which means they naturally land on the heel of their foot. This footstrike is less ideal because it often indicates the runner is “overstriding,” meaning that the foot extends past the knee when making contact with the ground. Not only is this way of running less efficient, but it can lead to increased injury risk in the lower legs. Running shoes with extra cushion, such as Hoka One Ones, are great for natural heel strikers.
When being fitted for a running shoe, most local running stores will ask whether you pronate. Pronation occurs when a runner lands with his or her weight distributed towards the inside of the foot. There are running shoes available which provide motion control to prevent this problem. In general, pronation places athletes at a greater risk for developing certain injuries, such as shin splints or posterior tibialis tendonitis.
The opposite of pronation is supination, where the runner lands with weight unevenly distributed to the outside of the foot. This runner will be at an increased risk of peroneal and ankle injuries. Like pronation, supination can be corrected with a motion control shoe.
A runner with a neutral footstrike is one who lands with weight evenly distributed across the entire foot. Both forefoot and heel strikers can have a neutral footstrike. Besides decreased injury risk, the neutral footstriker will have more available shoe options.
Ultimately, if you have a footstrike pattern that increases your risk of injury, it is not advisable to make major changes to your running form. Doing so will strain underdeveloped muscles, leaving you at an even greater risk of injury. Instead, identify your weaknesses and inefficiencies in order to make small changes. For instance, if you supinate you should strengthen the posterior tibialis area of your foot in order to develop a more stable landing.