Modify Your Footstrike

Many runners have misconceptions about their own footstrike pattern. Previous studies have shown that the majority of runners who stated they were Midfoot or even Forefoot strikers were actually Rearfoot strikers. For those runners who are interested in their foot landing pattern the benefit of having an objective measure of your footstrike type is clear.

The relative importance of which footstrike type a runner uses, and whether there is a preferred footstrike type, is still a debated issue within the running scene. Some reasons proposed for shifting away from Rearfoot footstrike include the possibility of reduced body loading or a shift in loading patterns to reduce injury risk and the possibility of improved running economy. These outcomes are debated by some biomechanists and coaches. Irrespective, a transition in footstrike pattern has been a popular intervention for runners over the last 10-15 years, and is often at least one aspect of a run retraining training program, which perhaps focuses on combining increased cadence with altered footstrike pattern.

Footstrike Trainer is a feature available as part of an NURVV Run's Indoor Run workout. It provides step-by-step visualization of the footstrike landing pattern being used by the runner, independently on the left and right foot. With Footstrike Trainer you can start to make the connection between how your foot landing feels and what type of footstrike you are actually using. Discover if your Footstrike is the same on the left and right foot or whether you have a mismatch. A mismatched Footstrike is suggestive of left-right differences elsewhere in your biomechanical "chain".

Start a footstrike retraining program by running short intervals on the treadmill using the new footstrike and checking the output from Footstrike Trainer, building the length of these intervals up gradually over time until the adopted pattern becomes more habitual. Prior to Footstrike Trainer, it was simply not possible for a runner to know what their actual footstrike pattern was – now you can make modifications to your footstrike, train your motor patterns using Footstrike Trainer and then monitor the translation of this training into your outdoor runs using the Footstrike Profile graphs.

Using Footstrike Trainer

Footstrike Trainer is an additional screen within the Indoor Run mode so is easy to access. Begin an Indoor Run from the Run Hub and swipe the screen to the right to access the Footstrike Trainer. As long as you are running / walking, the visualization will be active and show in real-time the footstrike type being used on each left and right step. We have implemented the Footstrike Trainer into the Indoor Run to ensure it can be used easily and safely, anticipating that our runners will want to prop their device on the treadmill and can glance at the screen from time to time to check their footstrike without interrupting their rhythm. The % values provided at the bottom mirror those already provided on the main screen of Indoor Run and provide a 10-second rolling window of the most common footstrike type being used on each foot.

Footstrike Profile

There is a bit of an urban myth that all top runners use a Forefoot or Midfoot landing pattern but a video analysis at the 2017 World Athletics Championships (among others) dispelled that myth, with approximately 70% of the top 70 marathon runners across Men’s and Women’s races being observed to run with a Rearfoot landing pattern (approximately 27% Midfoot and 3% Forefoot strikers).

At NURVV you will not find us universally recommending one footstrike pattern over another since this aspect of running technique, like many others, does not seem to be a one size fits all issue. However, we also know that many runners are interested in what their footstrike actually is and that a footstrike transition is often a component of a “run retraining” package, so if you want to monitor your footstrike and how it changes over the course of a run or a longer timeframe then NURVV Run has the ideal tools for the job.

Footstrike Profile provides the runner with granular information about their foot landing patterns, a detail that they have never had access to before. For both left and right feet, the proportion of Rearfoot, Midfoot, and Forefoot ground contacts can be analyzed for each stage of a run and any trends due to fatigue or mismatches can be picked up straight away. For example, a runner may have a mismatch in their Footstrike between left and right but it may only become apparent when the runner fatigues later in the run – Footstrike Profile gives the runner easy access to this data for each run.

Reading This Graph: The timeline of the run is shown on the bottom axis as splits (km or miles). The proportion of each different footstrike type averaged for each quarter-split is shown as the vertical bars, with different shading for Rearfoot, Midfoot and Forefoot, adding up to 100% of foot landings for that section of the run. There is a separate graph for Left Footstrike and Right Footstrike. In the example graphs, this runner is mainly a Forefoot striker on both feet for the first 3 splits, over 75% of foot contacts are on the Forefoot. From split 4 onwards our runner is still Forefoot striking a lot but the proportion of landings that are Midfoot begins to increase, for both left and right feet, possibly due to the onset of fatigue. Overall, in the last full split (split 5) this runner is approximately 50/50 between Forefoot and Midfoot landings. The graph appearance can be toggled between showing “All” footstrike types at each stage of the run or only visualizing the proportion of one footstrike type, selecting between “Rearfoot”, “Midfoot”, and “Forefoot”.

Footstrike Profile – Case Study

In the case study, we have a runner who has had time out from running due to an injury to the left knee joint. As part of a return to sport program designed with their physio, they are aiming to run with a higher cadence and transition from a Rearfoot footstrike to a Midfoot/Forefoot footstrike in the hope it will reduce the loading placed on their knee joints.

This runner has used the Footstrike Trainer feature available within NURVV Run’s Indoor Run mode on some treadmill runs to begin to feel what it is like to run for periods of time using a Midfoot and Forefoot strike rather than a Rearfoot strike. Using the Footstrike Trainer, they have found that this comes more naturally on their left foot rather than the right foot and also that a switch to slightly lighter weight shoes with less of a heel-to-toe drop helps encourage the footstrike transition.

Having done some short-duration periods of Midfoot and Forefoot striking on the treadmill our runner is now going to use the tools available via Footstrike Profile to monitor how their footstrike transition is progressing during outdoor runs. The physio has encouraged a gradual transition phase to allow the runner’s body to develop the kinesthetic awareness of how the adopted footstrike feels and to get used to accommodating the altered loading patterns. A gradual transition allows the Achilles tendon and calf muscles to adapt to the increased loading they will experience. In practice, this means that our runner is performing some outdoor runs alternating between sections of the run using their natural Rearfoot striking pattern and then sections attempting to execute a more Midfoot/Forefoot striking pattern. Initially, the sections of the run using the adopted footstrike pattern are kept relatively short (500 m), before gradually building up the distance.

The graphs below show the results of one of these outdoor runs. The first half of each split was intended to be focused on the ‘adopted’ footstrike pattern (Forefoot or Midfoot type) and the second 500 m of each 1 km split was attempting to revert to the ‘normal’ footstrike pattern (a Rearfoot strike). The Footstrike Profile shows that the runner is initially able to execute the adopted footstrike pattern with a Forefoot landing on the left foot but that in later sections of the run the footstrikes revert to mainly Midfoot landings for the adopted pattern. On the right foot, the runner adopts the new foot landing pattern when intended although this is more weighted towards Midfoot landings than Forefoot landings.

The transition of footstrike is something that should be expected to take some time since it is important for the physical adaptations to be allowed to occur. Our runner can keep using the Footstrike Profile graphs to determine at which point of a run they are not able to adopt the intended footstrike (separately for left and right foot) and to monitor how this changes over a training period.

Left Foot –periods of ‘adopted’ versus periods of ‘normal’ footstrike

Right Foot –periods of ‘adopted’ versus periods of ‘normal’ footstrike

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