ChiRunning’s response to Midfoot Strike Study… “Finally”!

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This recent news falls into the it’s-about-time category for running related studies, and we're thrilled. A 2011 study, published in the August 2012 European Journal of Applied Physiology, says that running with a midfoot strike will lower your impact with the ground and could, therefore, reduce the incidence of lower extremity stress fractures, one of the most common injuries runners get. The group of researchers took a small number of runners and put them through a battery of tests to see if they could reduce their impact with the road by doing three things which have been shown in previous studies to reduce load rate: Running with a midfoot strike (Hennig and Milani 1995; Lieberman et al. 2010; Squadrone and Gallozzi 2009), running with a higher step frequency (Hamill et al. 1995), and running in racing flats (Jenkins and Cauthon 2011; Lohman et al. 2011).

They also did a fourth test with their subjects using all three interventions at the same time. Here’s what they found.

When they had the runners land in a midfoot strike, and when they ran with a combination of all three interventions, they had an approximately 50% lower loading rate. What they also found, which was interesting to me, was that running in racing flats, or increasing one’s stride frequency, had a non-significant effect on loading rate.

So here’s their final conclusion, and I quote: “Our results show that the most efficient solution for acutely reducing LR (loading rate) is to run with a MFS (midfoot strike) pattern.” I couldn’t agree more.

What I would like to see done is a study showing whether or not there is an increased probability of metatarsil stress fractures in either barefoot runners or minimalist shoe enthusiasts, because of the forefoot strike pattern common to those two groups. I have heard of many reports of runners transitioning too quickly to barefoot or minimalist running and incurring everything from calf pulls and achilles tendonitis, to metatarsil stress fractures. On the other hand I’ve heard just as many stories of chronically injured runners miraculously being cured of all the same injuries. So, I’d love to hear the scientists weight in on this one.

When I saw that 50% reduction in loading rate from the midfoot strike, I said to myself, “I like those numbers.” Because it means two things,” 1. If you run with a midfoot strike you’ll be creating significantly lower odds of having a stress fracture in your lower extremities, and 2. after twelve years of ChiRunning Instructors teaching hundreds of thousands of runners about the midfoot strike, we can officially say, “I think we’re onto something.”


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