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Friday, June 8, 2012

Joseph Hamill, PhD, Challenges the Idea that Forefoot Strike Patterns seen in Barefoot Running Reduce Runer's Injury Rate

     In the above article, Dr Joseph Hamill, PhD, UMass at Amherst, discusses research related to the benefits and disadvantages of running with a forefoot strike. Forefoot landing at impact is the key to various running techniques including the barefoot running technique. Dr Hamill is a natural forefoot striker himself when he runs.

Some of the points I thought summarized the article:

  • Whereas the barefoot running group highlights rearfoot or heel strike as the source of many injuries, running injuries are complex and multi-factorial.
  • From a pure Biomechanics standpoint, there is no benefit to run barefoot or a forefoot strike.
  • Forefoot strike decreases vertical impact peak, also called vertical ground reactive force, but there are still impact peaks just lower in her frequencies (intensity).
  • Lower impact frequencies are attentuated (absorbed or dealt with) by muscle activity, higher impack peaks by bone. Muscles are weaker at handling impact stress than bone. Muscle injuries should occur with more likelihood with forefoot strike, and bone injuries more with heel strike.
  • Loading rates may actually not be lower in barefoot running as claimed. Changing technique may be the most significant driver of change. When natural forefoot strikers switch to rearfoot strike, their loading rates went down. 
  • Even though heel strike may have more ground reactive force, it is less delicate of tissue than the forefoot, and can handle that stress.
  • There are different strike patterns for different functions. Rearfoot strike for maximum energy efficiency. Forefoot strike for maximum speed. So Forefoot strike not designed for all purposes. It will work for some, and not for others. 

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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.