Barefoot running – Is it better? Part 2

by | Mar 20, 2015

Part 2

Last post we saw that research has not proven barefoot running to be better in general than running with shoes. If you are used to a particular running style and it is working for you it is questionable how worthwhile a change would be. However, research does find some more clearcut changes that can be made to help stop recurrence of injury or reduce injury risk. This second post will look more at changing the foot-strike to either help treat injury or reduce the risk of re-injury, particularly if the injury has occurred more than once before. 

Different Foot Strikes

The basic strike patterns of the foot in running.

Research has shown that:

Fore-foot strike (FFS) places more load on the ankle, whereas rear-foot strike (RFS) places more load on the hip and knee1.

If you have looked at the running assessment page of my website, you will have seen the statistic that 70% of running injuries are caused by training error2. Here are two examples of a training error that could cause injury:

  1. Changing foot-strike when no issue/injury existed
  2. Changing foot-strike when it was appropriate

Now you may be thinking, wait-a-minute, if it is appropriate to change foot strike how can it be a training error? Well, it could be a training error if the change was made in the wrong manner. In this example, even if an appropriate change, it could cause injury if the runner just woke up one day and grossly changed their pattern! The same could be true in our assessment of barefoot running: it may not be inappropriate, but if you suddenly switch from always wearing shoes to always going barefoot, your feet could quickly be injured!

Continuum of footstrike

From rear-foot to fore-foot

So, we come to the most important point of these two posts. When making changes either to your shoes (or lack thereof) or foot-strike, we need to consider the idea of moving along a continuum. If I have knee pain when running, I might need to move along the continuum from RFS towards FFS gradually. This is necessary to allow the body’s tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones) time to adapt. When you don’t allow the body this time, you can develop issues such as muscle strains, tendonitis, ligament sprains, and stress fractures. For example, if you move too quickly from RFS to FFS you could easily develop achilles tendonitis.

Research has shown that by increasing strike-rate you can move along the continuum from RFS to FFS3. However, this should be done slowly. We have to listen to our bodies making sure we do not experience significant pain or worse, run through pain during the changes we make. Because everyone’s bodies are built and respond to change differently, it is also not easy to prescribe a standard protocol to follow.

The above example on how to change foot-strike is certainly not the only way to manage an injury or stress to a part of the running body.  Changes to foot-strike as well as other options, particularly in the presence of injury, should be made under supervision. As a Physical Therapist, I would only recommend specific changes after a thorough analysis, which would involve a full physical examination and video running assessment. If you feel that a change in foot-strike might be for you, I would be happy to help you determine whether making such a change is appropriate for your situation.

Reference List

1) Stearne SM, Alderson JA, Green BA, Donnelly CJ, Rubenson J. Joint kinetics in rearfoot versus forefoot running: implications of switching technique. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014;46(8):1578-87.

2) Lysholm J, Wiklander J. Injuries in runners. Am J Sports Med. 1987;15(2):168-71.

3) Forrester SE, Townend J. The effect of running velocity on footstrike angle–a curve-clustering approach. Gait Posture. 2015;41(1):26-32.

What Is The Right Running Shoe For Me?!

Modern advances (and claims) have not done much for injury risk! Runners assign a huge level of importance to footwear ...
Read More
Carpal tunnel and neck pain care in huntsville and madison alabama

When is Carpal Tunnel Not Carpal Tunnel

There is often the assumption that numbness in the hand is due to carpal tunnel syndrome. However, oftentimes these symptoms ...
Read More
Huntsville Madison runners need strong soleus muscles to help avoid achilles problems

Why You Need a Strong Soleus!

Why You Need a Strong Soleus! The soleus is a big calf muscle, but oftentimes is unloved! It is actually ...
Read More
interview with a fitness professional in Huntsville and Madison with Joe Martin of Huntsville Adventure Boot Camp

Interview With Joe Martin of Huntsville Adventure Boot Camp

The Huntsville/Madison Health and Fitness Professionals I Trust #2 As a physical therapist it is often important to refer my ...
Read More
Evidence based treatment huntsville and madison alabama

Trick or Treat!

Trick or Treat - Is The Treatment To Good To Be True? When healthcare professionals recommend a treatment, it should ...
Read More
Ankle sprains live at physioworks in huntsville alabama providing top ankle physical therapy

What we do if Ankle Sprains Are Slowing us Down!

If you read our recent blog on ankle sprains (link here) you might be wondering what to do practically. This ...
Read More
Loading...

0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Arthritis and Age in Runners - PhysioWorks, Sports and Wellness, inc - […] on running that are more detailed so you are now pretty smart folks! You know for instance that a…
  2. Barefoot Running - Part 1 - […] If your normal running pattern is comfortable for you, why change it?! Stay tuned for Part 2… […]
  3. Arthritis and Age in Runners - […] on running that are more detailed so you are now pretty smart folks! You know for instance that a…
  4. Should I correct my technique? How can I do it? - […] Certain aspects of technique load up different joints more than others (see our blog article on foot-strike). […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

google logoPhysioWorks, Sports and Wellness, Inc.PhysioWorks, Sports and Wellness, Inc.
5 Stars - Based on 38 User Reviews

facebook logoPhysioWorks, Sports and Wellness, Inc.PhysioWorks, Sports and Wellness, Inc.
5 Stars - Based on 19 User Reviews

Never miss a blog!

Andrew is a fantastic physical therapist, and I highly recommend him to everyone! I originally saw him for an impinged shoulder about 10 years ago in a traditional PT setting, and although I was very pleased with the results, the Physioworks practice model is a tremendous improvement over traditional PT. Andrew is able to provide more individual attention to his patients and work with them over a longer period of time to get better and more permanent results. Andrew has the gift of encouragement and focuses on educating his patients in the "why" of each exercise.

Sandy Grady Avatar Sandy Grady
7/25/2018

Over the years I've received treatment from 8 different centers in the Huntsville/Madison area for running-related injuries. While other centers were helpful in pain management, PhysioWorks was BY FAR the most helpful in finding the real cause of the problem. They laid out a plan for me to get right. Pretty great stuff.

Brandon Mader Avatar Brandon Mader
2/06/2019

Andrew is an extremely valuable asset to our community thanks to his passion for not only his patients, but for staying on top of current research and techniques. I have seen him numerous times and the care I have received is second to none. Andrew is also actively involved in our local athletic community offering injury prevention advice and training tips, and you can often see him volunteering his time at athletic events. Highly recommend.

Teresa Fleischmann Avatar Teresa Fleischmann
2/05/2018