To Heel or Forefoot Strike? Which is Better?

Today’s Workout
Five rounds, 4 minutes each:
2 Squat Cleans every minute on the minute
– 1 minute break between rounds for weight changes
– Weight changes only during each one minute rest interval
– Goal is the successful completion of all reps during a 4 minute period w/ the heaviest weight.Dr. Daniel Lieberman of Harvard’s Skeletal Biology Lab has been studying the effects of heel vs. forefoot striking for many years now. Recently, he’s published findings that would lead one to believe that to avoid injury, you are better off landing in the ball of your foot. In fact, in a study of Harvard U’s men’s and women’s cross-country team over four years, researchers found that runners who land in their heels are twice a likely to get injured. Here’s an article about it from the NY Times. Any of you that CrossFit out there, you are running enough to make it well worth your while to read this article (lets hear your thoughts in comments).

Many of you know that I have been making the transition from heel striking to “barefoot” or forefoot striking for about 4 years. I’m now running shoeless (for distances less than 3 miles – the skin on my feet are still getting used to putting miles on pavement). I have found that the running mechanics associated with forefoot striking (good posture, open hips, high cadence, quickness off the ground, slight forward lean, landing with your center of mass slightly in front of your base of support, soft & silent landing, relaxed head, neck and shoulders) are generally so much better than when heel striking, it makes no sense to me to heel strike. Now, if you’re able to run with these mechanics and land in your heel, and you’re not frequently suffering from running injuries, go for it – land in your heels. But if not, I strongly suggest working toward forefoot striking. Remember it is a long, slow process… don’t be in a hurry (that too can lead to injury). But if you’re in this for the long haul as I am, take a look at it… if nothing else it will help bring some awareness to something you probably always took as “natural”.


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