It is better to run smarter rather than harder. What are some of the secrets to running fast besides training more. This review looks at the science of whether working on landing midfoot or forefoot vs heal striking makes a difference.
Ever since the dawn of the padded Nike running shoe in the 1970’s, the question has arose about how to run faster. 35 years ago the thought process was that if you landed on your toes or midfoot you would run faster then if you landed on your heals. More recently the book Born to Run and products like minimalist shoes have fueled the controversy and more detailed and potentially conflicting studies have come out. After reviewing several different literature searches I came on this article by Steve Magness written in 2010 that sums up some recent studies and I believe reinforces my belief that if you can run and land midfoot or forefoot you will run faster. I also believe that you will be injured less by landing midfoot or forefoot than on your heals. I believe that runners that land heal first have more knee stress, hip stress and back stress.
I believe by landing on your midfoot and forefoot, you will also have a longer stride, decrease ground contact time, be leaning forward overall run more efficiently.
Even if you cant ways land midfoot or forefoot all the time by training this way you will be able to engage different muscle groups so that you will be able to run faster longer.
Whether you run 800m or 1500 or even 10K, the faster runners generally are striking midfoot or forefoot for as long as they can. When you fatigue of if you need to “kick” it’s nice to have a slightly different stride and muscle group to rely on.
From British studies that Mr. Magness quotes
In all of the British studies they looked at semi-elite/competitive runners during 800 and 1500m competitions. They looked at foot strike and ground contact time on each lap. This will not only give us an idea on foot strike implications but also on fatigue. The conclusions that can be drawn based on the research about fatigue and training are very interesting!
In the 1500m, the range of times went from 3:45 to 4:22 with the average being 3:56.
Once again, ground contact time-ground contact time was related to foot strike. Forefoot strikers spent 161ms on the ground compared to 169ms for midfoot and 192ms for heel strike. The difference between heel strike and the other two are pretty remarkable. What is interesting is that ground contact increase basically on every lap.
Footstike also changed based on lap. Initially on lap 1, 34.6% were forefoot striking, 46.2% midfoot, and 19.2% heel striking. On lap 4 the picture changed slightly. More of the midfoot strikers in particular had switched to heel striking (heel striking increase to 27%.)
What this means. Fatigue: “over the course of a 1500m race, ground contact time increased irrespective of footstrike position. This implies an element of fatigue, with runners presumably requiring longer to generate the same impulse.”
Before delving into the meaning of this, let’s look at the results of the other study on 800m runners quickly:
800m male runners- 1:47 to 2:01 (avg: 1:55):
– forefoot-35% Ground contact (156ms)
– midfoot-48% Ground contact (161ms)
– Heel-17% Ground Contact (177ms)
-Ground contact lap 1- 156ms lap 2-168ms
-Ground contact time and footstrike related to running speed.
So how can you run faster? Work on switching to a midfoot and forefoot running style if speed is your concern. Increase strenght endurance work combined with plyometric and power training.