Heel or Toe: What’s the Best Landing Point for Runners?

Today’s post is for all you runners that are hoping to come up with the safest and most efficient stride. For quite some time now, there’s been a debate as to whether hitting the ground with your heel or forefoot will improve running times and help you avoid injury.Forefoot vs. heel running? Your body feels it either way

Recently, in recognition of people gearing up for the big fall marathons, the New York Times looked at several studies comparing ‘heel strikers’ to runners whose forefoot hits the pavement first. Of those who run with shoes on (which is most of us, although I’ve discussed the idea of barefoot running in previous postings), the majority are heel strikers; the idea that forefoot running is better evolved because that is where the foot usually lands when you run without shoes on, suggesting it’s a more natural stride.

If you believe that forefoot running is safer, you’ll be interested to hear the results of the most recent study on the topic, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise over the summer. It seems that one stride isn’t better than the other; the two strides just put pressure on different parts of the body.

For runners whose heels absorb the first impact, knees took the biggest hit. Forefoot runners experienced more ankle and Achilles injuries.  Basically, no matter how you run, your body is going to absorb some impact. The study can be useful for runners who already have certain injuries, because knowing which stride affects which body part can help you choose a gait that won’t tweak existing injuries.

Since it’s clear that running can cause you injury, no matter how you stride, I would advise you to train wisely. That means building rest days into your workout schedule, varying distance and incorporating weight bearing exercises. And if you are experiencing foot pain, while running or during any of your day-to-day activities, schedule an appointment with me, your Houston podiatrist, as soon as possible.

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.