“Is the minimalist running trend over?”
That was the headline of an article I read recently and it got me thinking once again about the debate around mid-foot or fore-foot running versus heel-strike running. As is often the case, there’s an awful lot of talk around this subject but not much science. In his best-selling book, Born to Run, Christopher McDougall shares the story of the Taramuhara Indians of the Copper Canyon region of Mexico who are able to run for days up and down steep dirt tracks wearing only minimal thong-like footwear. The minimalist-footwear camp almost diefy’s this story and so the explosion of minimalist down to barefoot running.
More recently a number of running shoe manufacturers have launched ‘super support’ running shoes that move in absolutely the opposite direction and have ‘pumped up’ the mid-sole. Think platform shoes. Who’s right?
As usual there is no right answer. Running style is a function of a lot of factors: body style and weight being major factors that influence running. We all can’t be elite marathoners in real life even though we are in our minds. To help shed some light on the issue, I found a number or articles on midfoot, forefoot and everything in between:
Marathoners and Ultra Distance runners strive for high running economy which translates into low oxygen consumption. That’s the only way to make it through the 4+ hours it takes us mid-packers to complete the Full Marathon distance. Here’s a good article from Runners World that does a good job of explaining the results of a study on forefoot running versus heel strike running techniques: “Heel landing beats midfoot”.
Good running form is key to efficient running and faster times. How to run more naturally is the topic of this excellent article in Runners World. The key to running naturally is high cadence with short strides. From increasing your cadence up to the 180+ steps-per-minute range to why midfoot is more efficient this article includes suggestions hon how to “Run softly, run naturally”
Running on the balls of your feet for long distance running causes fatigue. It’s great for sprinters who are only interested in maximum power and don’t worry about oxygen. For distance runners there are times when transitioning to the balls of your feet make sense: up a steep incline on a trail for instance. Most of the time though, midfoot is more economical. More detail is included in this article from Active, “Mid-foot strikers vs the Balls of your feet”
Midfoot or heelstrike: Which is the better way to run? The answer is…both! And the debate continues. This article from USA Triathlon talks about all the styles of running and includes a good illustration of the different ways the foot strikes the ground in each technique. The real answer to the question “What is the best foot strike technique?” is that it really depends on what’s comfortable for you. “The footstrike debate”.
The minimalist trend likely isn’t over. The debate on what the best running technique has stimulated conversation and has contributed to shoe manufacturers offering lots of choice making it easier to match your technique with the right shoe. So get out running. We’ll see you on the street!
Until next time…