Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Tucson, AZ
The Art and Science of Optimal Running Form
THE BALL, THE SOLE OR THE ARCH OF THE FOOT?
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:
- The mid-foot can only exist in shoes that eliminate the arch, OR
- 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.