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Running: Forefoot vs. Heel Landings

Runners everywhere are familiar with the near constant debate about foot strikes. How your foot lands with every stride determines how the impact—and any effects it may have—is absorbed by your body structures. Recently the move has been away from heel strikes and toward forefoot strides. Landing heel first puts all of the shock into your bones and the joints up your legs, like your ankles and knees. Striking with the forefoot first allows other cushioning and structures in your foot to help absorb the impact. However, things may not be as straightforward as some may have believed.

New research suggests that running economy, or your body’s effectiveness while running, may not be as significantly affected by your footfall style as had been thought. This research showed almost no difference between those who ran landing heel first and those who struck with the front of their feet. This all depends, however, on your footwear choices. The new study showed that running shoes with cushioned heel areas helped the foot handle the shock and did not negatively impact people’s ability to run well. Actually, people wearing shoes seemed to run better using their heels and rolling through their feet.

Still, how you run and whether or not your gait puts you at risk for injuries partially depends on your body’s mechanics and how you have conditioned. If you use good running shoes that fit well and have sufficient cushioning in the heel, chances are a heel strike won’t put you at a more serious risk than your forefoot landing. Like any changes you make in your exercises, however, if you decide to switch your stride, you’ll need to recondition your body over a period of time to handle a rear foot strike.

If you’re experiencing any pain in your feet or ankles while running, don’t ignore it. Pain is your body’s way of warning you things are not working right. Instead, contact Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC in Metairie for an appointment or more information by visiting the online contact page or by calling (504)-708-4810.

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