Foot Strike Patterns – Running Basics

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You need to know about these basics of running biomechanics


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Your foot strike can have a big impact on your comfort and performance while running. Learn what yours says about your running style.

The term “foot strike” refers to how you land on your foot each time you take a step – and for decades the running community has intensely contested which strike pattern is the best.

Why? Your foot strike significantly affects your speed, energy consumption, and even risk of injury every time you lace up those sneakers, so it stands to reason that athletes would be on the lookout for the optimal version of impact.

With so many conflicting theories, it can be tough to determine which foot strike is best.

Foot Strike - Different Types

Biomechanics—the study of the mechanical laws that govern the movement of living organisms can shed some light on this hot-button topic.

You can’t argue with physics, and no matter how many running crazes come and go, science is always there to deliver some hard truths about the effects of exercise on the body.

Before diving into the research, it’s important to note that each runner will have a unique strike pattern based on their weight, height, and bone structure. Even the foot strikes of pro athletes vary across the board.

What does matter when examining your strike pattern? Deciding whether or not it’s putting you at risk for injury down the road. Let’s get to it.

There are three different foot strikes – forefoot, midfoot, and rearfoot strikes. Let’s break them down a little further so you can figure out which category you fall under.



Forefoot Strike

This strike pattern places the weight of impact on your toes and ball of the foot, so your heels rarely hit the ground between steps.

It’s likely that your upper body is bent forward in this foot strike position, and you might experience frequent cramps in your calves and around your Achilles tendon.

However, a forefoot strike pattern can be great for powering you over a steep hill or giving you a leg up on the competition during a sprint.


Midfoot Strike

In this foot strike, the center of your foot lands on the pavement to evenly distribute the shock of impact.

You should feel like your weight is balanced over your hips, knees, and ankles.

With this pattern, you’ll probably notice you can maintain high, consistent speeds and have a higher running cadence than other athletes.


The most common foot strike amongst runners, the rearfoot or heel strike has you hitting the pavement with the back of your foot.

Your stride reaches out in front of your body as you run instead of staying squarely underneath your hips.

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