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Patrick Donnelly 01-24-2009 11:16 AM

Midfoot Strike
I've always referred to POSE-style running as using a forefoot strike. You land on the part of the foot just below the toes, and just above the arch. However, on several occasions, the most recent being today, I have been told that a midfoot strike is superior.

Well, I got around to thinking about it today, and is a midfoot strike even possible?

1. You've got an arch there, a gap. There's a bit of contact with the ground on the outer edge, but for the most part, the midfoot doesn't ever contact the ground, ever.

2. You can draw a straight line between the bottom of the heel and the bottom of the forefoot. Since there are no hinge joints in the foot (not the toes, but the stubby part), if you wanted to have the middle of that line contact the ground, the earliest at which you could do it would be when the heel and forefoot also hit the ground. That is, when the entire foot lands flat. That couldn't be considered a midfoot strike. The forefoot can contact the ground first because it is still exposed when the foot bends at the toes. The heel can contact the ground first because it is still exposed when the ankle is flexed. A midfoot strike would be like trying to put the palm of you hand down on the table before the base of the hand or the base of the finger joints touch. It doesn't make sense.

3. If you're wearing a running shoe with an oddly shaped sole (as all common running shoes have), then yes, the middle of the shoe can contact the ground at around the same time as the forefoot, but then wouldn't the force inside the shoe still be on the forefoot, rather than the midfoot? You've still go that arch there.

Logically, it just doesn't make sense, and I would really appreciate it if someone could explain it to me.

Garrett Smith 01-24-2009 03:54 PM

The Art and Science of Optimal Running Form

Dr. Romanov collaborated with investigators Regan Arendse and Tim Noakes to provide hard data to support his opinions. In an article published in peer reviewed journal of Medicine Science Sport and Exercise they investigated the biomechanical changes during three methods of running, heel toe running, mid-foot running and the Pose method of running. The Pose method of running is different from mid-foot in that foot strike is on the ball of the foot with the heel slightly off the ground, as compared to mid-foot the entire bottom of the foot strikes the ground.

Measures were taken of the 20 individuals running with 3 different forms of running, heel toe, mid-foot strike, and “Pose” method. The investigators found heel toe, and mid-foot running had longer stride and greater vertical oscillations compared to the Pose method of running. Many experts believe that a shorter stride can be a more efficient method of running.

Heel toe running had greater vertical impact forces than mid-foot or Pose running. In other words the Pose method of running was better at absorbing shock.

There was less work done at the knee with the Pose method compared to heel toe and mid-foot running. The Pose method should be gentler on the knee.

There was greater work carried out at the ankle with the Pose method compared to the heel-toe and mid-foot method. The Pose method puts greater stress on the Achilles.

What is refreshing about Regan’s investigation is that it provides hard evidence regarding the difference between running heel toe compared to mid-foot and ball of the feet running. It begins to bring more science to the art of optimal running form.

If we omit from our further discussion heel landing, as an obvious misunderstanding of the physical reality, then we’ll be left with three major points of views on this subject. It is, the so-called, midfoot, flat foot and forefoot landing. Each side insists that it is the only way to land properly in order to reduce the impact and the load on the lower legs and muscular and tendons/ligaments systems.

Let’s look at terminology: "midfoot" landing. It is described as landing "just behind" the ball of the foot. Advocates of this approach consider it as an efficient substitute for forefoot landing, allowing the runner to reduce the load on the foot supporting tissues and making landing softer. It sounds as an important consideration, if we don't know the meaning of the anatomical term "midfoot". By definition from a very serious book "Joints Structure & Function" (Norkin S.C., P.K. Levangie, F.A. Devis Company . Philadelphia, 1992, p. 381), midfoot consists of five tarsalas bones, which make up the ARCH of our foot. I don’t know how they propose to land on the arch of the foot. I know I wouldn’t be able to do that.

"Flat foot" landing, as the term implies, means landing on the whole area of the sole of the foot, from its front to the rear. Again, the supporters appeal to the same values – it is supposed to reduce impact during landing because "smacking" the whole foot on the ground allows the runner to distribute the load over the larger area of support. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

For me it may sound "reasonable" only for lazy people, who do not want to run fast, efficient and less loaded. The last one, less loaded, which is attributed to flat foot landing, is not really true. I would like to make some comments here to clear up this illusion about less loading in flat foot landing. It is caused by our perception related to our primary orientation on our muscular sensations of loading, which are just one part of loading of the rest of our tissues such as tendons, ligaments, cartilages and bones, and which are mostly out of our perception. The fact that we do not feel any load on our muscular system doesn’t mean that we have no load by our body weight. Please do not fall into this trap. In physical reality our body weight is always there, but the problem is who is taking the responsibility to carry it. If we do feel that our muscles are working less, then we have to think who else is doing it now. The answer is straightforward – the rest of tissues! There is no way around the body weight and load: somebody must carry it. The question is only: who’ll take care of it? Would it be just one group of "responsible" tissues, or they’ll work all together?

Now a more valuable hint. Our body’s moving structure consists of bones mostly, connected by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This is basic knowledge from anatomy. The only way the body can move as one unit is through the use of its muscular system. In running muscles work to keep our body over the support in order to let it fall forward. So if we do not place our body by using our muscular system into the falling position through our perception of movement, the other tissues would get overloaded without the support of muscles.

This is what happens in the acute cases of ankle sprains, when muscles perform late and thus function wrong. The same thing happens with flat foot landing runners, but in a long run.
Sounds like one of two options for the "mid-foot" landing:
  1. The mid-foot can only exist in shoes that eliminate the arch, OR
  2. There is no mid-foot to land on, as it is the arch of the foot
I'll stick with forefoot landing, I like my arches.

Steven Low 01-24-2009 09:57 PM

Slight forefoot for me.. nice to get a little stretch-shorten action in the calves. Need to run this way for sprints anyway to minimize ground contact time.

Mid-foot strike refers to whole foot landing at once... doesn't really matter how you cut it or if you think it doesn't exist. It's still called midfoot. And it's vastly better than heel. :p

Patrick Donnelly 01-25-2009 06:03 PM


Originally Posted by Steven Low (Post 48595)
Mid-foot strike refers to whole foot landing at once... doesn't really matter how you cut it or if you think it doesn't exist. It's still called midfoot. And it's vastly better than heel. :p

Ok, that's what had me confused. I still fail to see how taking out the eccentric contraction of the calves adds to the support, but at least I know what they're talking about. Thanks.

Derek Maffett 01-26-2009 04:59 AM

That's interesting - at least I have the appropriate name for it now. Mid-foot for me is essentially the degraded form of my preferred forefoot strike. Heel-toe just hurts.

Patrick, they may be thinking along the lines of distributing weight over a large surface area. Doesn't mean they're right, but that may be their thought process.

Craig Loizides 01-27-2009 08:46 AM

There's still an eccentric. It happens as the lower leg moves forward while the foot is stationary. I think most beginning pose runners over extend their ankles thinking that they need to keep their heels off the ground.

Patrick Donnelly 01-28-2009 07:47 AM


Originally Posted by Craig Loizides (Post 48776)
There's still an eccentric. It happens as the lower leg moves forward while the foot is stationary. I think most beginning pose runners over extend their ankles thinking that they need to keep their heels off the ground.

Interesting. But is there really an eccentric contraction going on there? It seems more like you'd simply be getting a short, dynamic stretch on the calves.

Allen Yeh 01-28-2009 10:43 AM

I used to be a bigtime heel striker, had shin splints like crazy, basic training and AIT was torture on my shins. For a time I thought I had stress fractures. After I graduated from all my training I investigated POSE and Chi-Running and all that. I tried it the way they suggested and have kind of drifted towards midfoot striking for anything that isn't a sprint. It's become more natural in the last year or 2 but it's been quite an effort. I still hate running but at least I don't feel like my lower legs are splitting!

George Mounce 01-28-2009 12:13 PM

Oh the eccentric is there, I feel it every time after I haven't run in awhile. :p

Patrick Donnelly 01-28-2009 12:28 PM

Allen, would you mind describing what you consider to be the "midfoot?"

George, if you were to land with your entire foot at the same time, the shin angling forward as the foot stays in place would not create any eccentric contraction, from what I could tell, since the foot has already full planted itself on the ground. It would be just like doing a standing calf stretch, but repeatedly and over a shorter ROM.

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