What is Footstrike?
Footstrike describes which part of a runner's foot – rearfoot, midfoot or forefoot – makes initial contact with the ground as they run. Everyone has a natural footstrike pattern. Factors such as technique, gradient, surface, running speed, and footwear can all change footstrike pattern.
Midfoot, Forefoot and Rearfoot Footstrikes
Footstrike type may subtly alter the nature of the forces being absorbed by the leg during ground contact. Therefore, changing the footstrike pattern has been a popular technique modification in running, yet the benefits are not universally agreed upon. However, there is still a trend to encourage runners to move away from rearfoot striking, partly because of a common misconception that all elite endurance runners use a midfoot or forefoot striking pattern.
For in-run monitoring of your Footstrike, you can choose to run an Indoor Run from the Run screen. Once the run has started, you can swipe to the left to take you to Footstrike Trainer, which displays a real-time visualization of your Footstrike landing pattern (Rearfoot, Midfoot, or Forefoot) for both left and right foot. Check that you are running with the Footstrike you intend to be using and check for any imbalance between left and right. The Footstrike Trainer screen also provides a rolling update of the most common Footstrike landing you have used on each foot for the last 10 seconds.
For post-run monitoring of Footstrike, you can dive into the detail for specific runs via the Run Summary screen. The main Run Summary screen provides a value for the most common Footstrike landing you used over the course of the run and displays the % number of steps that had that Footstrike type.
For even more detail, you can tap on the Footstrike metric and be taken to a graphic, which gives a full breakdown of the proportion of Footstrikes (Rearfoot, Midfoot, Forefoot) used during that run for both left and right foot. Footstrike Profile will provide even more detail on how your Footstrike changed over the course of the run, for each quarter-split providing the proportion of different Footstrike types used on each foot. The addition of the Elevation Profile allows you to cross-reference your Footstrike to the terrain.
Does your Footstrike change as you fatigue? How affected is your Footstrike by steep inclines or declines? Is your Footstrike balanced or different between left and right foot? The Footstrike Profile can answer all of these questions.
Some reasons are given for encouraging a transition from rearfoot striking to more midfoot or forefoot footstriking include:
- Better running economy
- Reduced impact forces/joint loading
- A redistribution of loading
- Reduced injury risk
For example, to transition footstrike from rearfoot to midfoot, runners should introduce a couple of short sessions or dedicate parts of their sessions to work on running with the adopted footstrike. Then gradually extend the proportion of midfoot landings within their runs. Initially, it is common to experience some lower leg and ankle discomfort as the body adapts to a new footstrike pattern. Most experts recommend doing additional lower leg (calf) strengthening and stretching exercises while transitioning to a different footstrike pattern. This helps to accommodate for the higher loading of the lower leg and allows for the maintenance of joint and tendon flexibility. These additional lower leg exercises should also help to reduce the soreness and any discomfort during adjusting to the new footstrike pattern. However, the discomfort persists or running becomes painful, the runner should stop retraining the new footstrike pattern.
Some approaches you can use to help with a footstrike transition include:
- Use NURVV Run's Footstrike Trainer feature, available as a screen on Indoor Run mode, to help you develop the connection between running with a particular footstrike pattern and how this feels for you.
- Running with a higher cadence and shorter step length, while at the same time landing the feet under flexing knee.
- Aiming to run softer with less noise at initial contact of the foot with the ground, which often has the effect of bringing your footstrike forward with less dorsiflexion (toe up) of the ankle at ground contact.
- A change in footwear, such as different stack height between the front and the back of the shoe (drop), can affect footstrike patterns. A shoe with a lower drop will promote contact towards the front of the foot. A shoe with a higher drop often encourages runners to land on the heel, especially if the forefoot/midfoot footstrike is not a natural pattern. If using this technique to change footstrike pattern, a slow transition in shoe drop height is recommended as it takes for the body several weeks to adapt.
- Use NURVV Run's Footstrike Profile graphs, available at the end of each run session, to analyze what your left and right footstrike are and how your footstrike changes over the course of a run. Comparing different runs over a period of time or run in different footwear will help you monitor how your footstrike pattern is changing over the longer-term.