The last several posts have been about running and there are a few more things to cover before we move on to other topics. In my last post, I raised the questions of whether your foot-strike really does make a difference, can you change it, and if “barefoot” running is the only way to get these benefits.
The way your foot strikes the pavement (or trail) when you run definitely makes a difference. There are some good sports medicine articles that cover this in greater detail, but in a nutshell – when you strike with your forefoot or mid-foot, the bones and tissue of your foot absorb and distribute the force of the strike. When you heel-strike that force is either absorbed and distributed by the materials and construction of the running shoe, but some of it is transmitted up the leg to the ankles, knees, and hips.
It is interesting to note that much of the running shoe development over the last several decades has been in the area of shock absorbers (gels, waffles, waves, cells, ridges and even airbags!) to absorb and distribute the force of a heel-strike and transfer that energy out through the shoes rather than up through the leg and body. However there is always some force transmitted upward, and depending upon the how worn down the shoes are, the type of surface (cement, asphalt, trail, grass, etc) and the style of the runner, there can still be a considerable amount of force transmitted upward into the body and joints. If you are a heel-striker you know what this feels like as the cushioning material begins to break down and you begin to feel more pounding in your knees and hips.
In the next post we’ll look at if and how you can change the type of foot-strike you have.
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