How do I know my footstrike when running – and why does it matter?

Footstrike – the way your foot lands as you run – is a hotly debated issue among biomechanists, coaches and runners.

Your footstrike is determined by which part of your foot hits the ground first, the rearfoot, midfoot or forefoot. Some runners and coaches believe a rearfoot strike can increase injury risk, particularly to the knee and hip joints, and slow you down by applying a braking effect. However, there’s probably no one footstrike that’s optimum for all runners.

Many thoughts about footstrike derive from the myth that the majority of top runners use a forefoot or midfoot landing. But video analysis at the 2017 World Athletics Championships found this isn’t actually the case.

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In fact, around 70% of the top 70 marathon runners across both the men’s and women’s races ran with a rearfoot landing pattern. In contrast, just 3% were forefoot strikers and the remaining 27% landed with their midfoot.

Like many aspects of running, it seems one footstrike doesn’t fit all. Which is why, at NURVV Run, we don’t recommend any one footstrike pattern over another. However, we do love running data, and we know many runners are interested in discovering what their footstrike is.

While no one footstrike is right for everyone, there may be an optimal footstrike for you.You may find one footstrike reduces the number of injuries you pick up, or improves your running economy (the amount of energy it takes to run at a certain pace). If you want to monitor your footstrike and see how it changes over the course of a run or a longer timeframe, then, Footstrike Profile is the tool for the job.

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What is Footstrike Profile?

Footstrike Profile is a NURVV Run feature designed to give you all the information you need about your individual footstrike pattern.

Throughout the duration of a run, Footstrike Profile shows you how many times you land with your rear-, mid- or forefoot during each quarter km or mile split. You can spot any differences between your left and your right side, and note whether your footstrike patterns change as you fatigue.

Footstrike Profile in action

If you want to know how Footstrike Profile looks in training, take a glance at the graphs below.

The runner featured had time out from running due to a left knee injury. As part of a return-to-sport programme designed with their physio, they’re aiming to run with a higher cadence and transition from a rear- to a midfoot strike in the hope it will reduce the load placed on their knee joints.

They’ve been using NURVV Run’s Footstrike Trainer feature on treadmill runs to get the feel for a mid- and forefoot strike and practised using them on shorter intervals. Now they’re using Footstrike Profile to see how their footstrike transition is progressing on outdoor runs.

The transition of footstrike should be done gradually to allow the muscles and tendons to adapt, so our runner has been alternating between their natural rearfoot striking pattern and the adopted mid-/forefoot pattern.

In the graphs below, they were running the first half of each km split with the new pattern and the second half with rearfoot striking. Footstrike Profile allows them to see exactly how often they’re hitting their new footstrike and if this changes as they fatigue. On the left foot, for example, they change from majority forefoot to majority midfoot strikes in the first half of the km as they tire.

Footstrike Profile will help them monitor their footstrike over time with each and every run, making it a valuable tool for anyone who’s aiming to transition their footstrike – as well as those who are just interested to see their stats.

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