Is there a perfect foot strike pattern in running?

What is the foot strike pattern?

If you divide the foot into three geometrically equal parts, you will call these sections rear- mid- and forefoot. Now, imagine to have a device that can tell you which of these three parts was the first to touch the ground at each step. The output would be the foot strike pattern (FSP). Thus, you might be a rearfoot, a midfoot or a forefoot striker, depending on which part of the foot performs the touchdown first1. You could even go bigger and accurately locate the strike along the foot. Starting from the heel until the toe tip, you can give a number that locates the centre of pressure (point of force application due to the distribution of pressure under the foot) at contact2 (see Figure 1). It is very well known that the large majority (80 to 95%) of amateur runners run with a rearfoot strike pattern1,3.

Different foot strike patterns (shod and barefoot running)
Figure 1 Typical rearfoot (A) and forefoot (B) strike patterns during shod and barefoot running, respectively. The strike index values are presented as well. Taken from Santuz et al, Front. Physiol. 8, 958 (2017).

What happens when you change foot strike pattern?

First of all, changing FSP is not only a matter of modifying the ankle joint angle. The whole body weight distribution changes, being the landing point in a rearfoot strike pattern farther from the body’s centre of mass than it is in a mid- or forefoot strike pattern this small plateau is absent or visually unidentifiable (see Figure 2)3,4. This translates in a lower rate of force development in the mid- or forefoot strike pattern compared to the rearfoot1,3–5. The active peak vertical force (the main peak of the force-time curve, see Figure 2) is usually similar or lower in rearfoot compared to forefoot strikers3,4.

Ground reaction force and foot strike patterns
Figure 2 Typical vertical ground reaction force produced by two different foot strike patterns.

Moreover, when rearfoot strikers switch to a mid- or forefoot strike, usually the cadence (number of steps per minute) increases together with the flight time, while contact times decrease2–4.

Are all these differences good?

Unfortunately, the consensus on the topic is far from being reached. While some eminent scientists such as Irene Davis are strong advocates of forefoot striking (and barefoot/minimalist running)4, there are just as brilliant researchers (e.g. Jo Hamill)3 which take some distances from a final, definitive answer to the question “should runners change their foot strike pattern?”. Hamill recently published a study in which he reviews past research on FSPs trying to understand whether mid-/forefoot strike is more convenient from a running economy and injury prevention perspective3. If you reached this point of my article, I guess you will be disappointed to learn that Prof. Hamill concludes that there is no scientific proof whatsoever that can strongly support improvements in running economy or injury risk’s reduction of mid-/forefoot strike against rearfoot strike patterns. It always makes me laugh when Prof. Hamill, at the end of his talks, answers the fateful question with a laconic: “it depends on how you want to get injured!”.

Take home message

As I often like to conclude, trying new things is what keeps us motivated, curious, alive. Extremisms have a long failure tradition in human history. Defending one or the other foot strike pattern without understanding the implications of the choice, will not help the cause in favour of peaceful coexistence. So I guess that the best answer you can get when you ask an expert if you should change FSP, is that there is no answer. But that you should always be trying something new anyway.


  1. Santuz, A., Ekizos, A. & Arampatzis, A. A Pressure Plate-Based Method for the Automatic Assessment of Foot Strike Patterns During Running. Ann. Biomed. Eng. 44, 1646–1655 (2016).
  2. Santuz, A., Ekizos, A., Janshen, L., Baltzopoulos, V. & Arampatzis, A. The Influence of Footwear on the Modular Organization of Running. Front. Physiol. 8, 958 (2017).
  3. Hamill, J. & Gruber, A. H. Is changing footstrike pattern beneficial to runners? J. Sport Heal. Sci. 6, 146–153 (2017).
  4. Davis, I. S., Rice, H. M. & Wearing, S. C. Why forefoot striking in minimal shoes might positively change the course of running injuries. J. Sport Heal. Sci. 6, 154–161 (2017).
  5. Lieberman, D. E. et al. Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature 463, 531–5 (2010).

The influence of shoe’s heel-to-toe drop on running

The heel-to-toe drop

In the lab, I often have the chance to play around with many different parameters related to running. Shoes certainly incorporate several of these and, especially for non-scientific audience, are reason for great interest. Independently on whether this is a good thing or not, it is no secret that in the past few decades we have been strongly influenced by the media and the shoe companies to wear cushioned shoes with relatively big drop. For the newbies of running, the heel-to-toe drop is the difference between the stack height at the heel and at the ball of the foot. You can read a detailed explanation in this article of mine. The drop can have very different values depending on the shoe (in this other blog post I present a fair amount of values for a quite wide range of models). To get an order of magnitude, values range from zero to fifteen millimetres. However, the most common settings oscillate between 10 and 15 mm, in an interval considered of “high drop”.


Same subject, different shoes.

The science of shoe’s drop

It is very likely that, if you are reading these lines, you asked yourself at least once whether the drop is an important parameter in a shoe. Honestly, I asked myself the very same question quite often in the past years and luckily had the tools to get some quick answers. In 2013, after analysing a dataset we never published, I found that shoe model did not influence important variables such as the foot strike pattern1. However, the conclusion that the drop was the sole responsible for this lack of correlation was impossible to justify. In order to correctly tackle the question, participants should have worn the same shoes and even if our sample size was pretty big (around 300 participants), we did not design the study for this purpose and my curiosity remained partially unsatisfied.

The years passed by and it was not until recently that I found two interesting works: one by Malisoux and colleagues, from the Luxembourg Institute of health2 and the other by Nigg and colleagues, from the University of Calgary3. Just a few studies4 really focus on the shoe drop and very often one can read about comparison between standard and minimalist shoes5–16 without any proper attention to the drop itself. Malisoux and colleagues, though, did something quite specific. They divided their 59 participants into three groups and assigned to each group shoes with 10, 6 or 0 mm of drop. An inclusion criterion was that they should not have used low drop (< 10 mm) shoes in the past 12 months. Important thing is, that the researchers tried to keep shoes similar, despite the differences in drop. Similar weight (308, 318 and 330 g), comparable rigidity and anonymised features. Moreover, the Luxembourger group proceeded with a follow-up after six months (or 500 km) ran in the very same shoes used for the first measurements. This is what is called a longitudinal study. Nigg, together with his colleagues, opted for a cross-sectional design: they recruited 35 runners, all of them being rearfoot strikers. Then they had each participant running on a treadmill barefoot and wearing three different shoes: a minimalist with drop < 3 mm (weight around 200 g), a conventional cushioned shoe with drop of around 14 mm (weight circa 300 g) and a racing flat (drop of 3 mm, weight of 110 g). Both groups, in both studies, found that the running style was basically unaffected by the changes in the characteristics of shoes.

Take home message

What the group of Malisoux concluded, is that changes of drop in standard cushioned shoes did not produce any significant biomechanical differences. Not even after a 6-month adaptation. Flight time, stride frequency, stride length, foot angle at contact…nothing. Just a tiny little difference in the knee abduction angle during the midstance. In a similar fashion, Nigg and his colleagues found that the vast majority of runners did not see changes in their preferred movement path when changing shoes.

Could it be that we are all overestimating the importance of the drop in running shoes? Contemporary science suggests we might.



  1. Santuz, A., Ekizos, A. & Arampatzis, A. A Pressure Plate-Based Method for the Automatic Assessment of Foot Strike Patterns During Running. Ann. Biomed. Eng. 44, 1646–1655 (2016).
  2. Malisoux, L., Gette, P., Chambon, N., Urhausen, A. & Theisen, D. Adaptation of running pattern to the drop of standard cushioned shoes: a randomised controlled trial with a 6-month follow-up. J. Sci. Med. Sport 1–6 (2017).
  3. Nigg, B. M. et al. The Preferred Movement Path Paradigm. Med. Sci. Sport. Exerc. 49, 1641–1648 (2017).
  4. Chambon, N., Delattre, N., Guéguen, N., Berton, E. & Rao, G. Shoe drop has opposite influence on running pattern when running overground or on a treadmill. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. (2014).
  5. Firminger, C. R. & Edwards, W. B. The influence of minimalist footwear and stride length reduction on lower-extremity running mechanics and cumulative loading. J. Sci. Med. Sport (2015).
  6. Fredericks, W. et al. Lower Extremity Biomechanical Relationships with Different Speeds in Traditional, Minimalist, and Barefoot Footwear. J. Sport. Sci. Med. 14, 276–283 (2015).
  7. Bergstra, S. A. et al. Running with a minimalist shoe increases plantar pressure in the forefoot region of healthy female runners. J. Sci. Med. Sport 18, 463–468 (2015).
  8. Willson, J. D. et al. Short-Term Changes in Running Mechanics and Foot Strike Pattern After Introduction to Minimalistic Footwear. PM&R 6, 34–43 (2014).
  9. Gillinov, S. M., Laux, S., Kuivila, T., Hass, D. & Joy, S. M. Effect of Minimalist Footwear on Running Efficiency: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Sports Health 7, 256–60 (2015).
  10. Squadrone, R., Rodano, R., Hamill, J. & Preatoni, E. Acute effect of different minimalist shoes on foot strike pattern and kinematics in rearfoot strikers during running. J. Sports Sci. 33, 1196–204 (2015).
  11. Willy, R. W. & Davis, I. S. Kinematic and kinetic comparison of running in standard and minimalist shoes. Med. Sci. Sport. Exerc. 46, 318–323 (2014).
  12. Mann, R. et al. The effect of shoe type and fatigue on strike index and spatiotemporal parameters of running. Gait Posture 42, 91–95 (2015).
  13. Cheung, R. T. H. & Ngai, S. P. Effects of footwear on running economy in distance runners: A meta-analytical review. J. Sci. Med. Sport (2015).
  14. Sinclair, J. Effects of barefoot and barefoot inspired footwear on knee and ankle loading during running. Clin. Biomech. 29, 395–399 (2014).
  15. Rice, H. M., Jamison, S. T. & Davis, I. S. Footwear Matters: Influence of Footwear and Foot Strike on Loadrates During Running. Med. Sci. Sport. Exerc. 44, 1 (2016).
  16. Miller, E. E., Whitcome, K. K., Lieberman, D. E., Norton, H. L. & Dyer, R. E. The effect of minimal shoes on arch structure and intrinsic foot muscle strength. J. Sport Heal. Sci. 3, 74–85 (2014).

November 2015 – Training recap

It is finally XC season! The first colds, the first snow and, as usual, the first cross-country races. November started with the long-waited Berlin and Brandenburg XC Champs, where I managed to get a 7th place in the long-distance (2nd in the age-group 30-35). Then a very intense measurements plan lead me to Kassel for one week, where I could enjoy a couple of track sessions in the beautiful main stadium. After the commitments related to the university, the “classical” marathon relay (now renamed to Airfield Run) allowed to run a pretty quick 5k for the Leidig24 Triathlon Team. Even if I faced a strong headwind for around 2 km, I still managed to run a 16’45” that, given the part of the season and the weather conditions, left me with quite a good feeling. Next, just a couple of days ago and always with the same team, I ran for the first time the Berliner Ruder-Club XC relay. A beautiful event indeed, with the interesting format of 4×6 km in the woods. Also, we won and that made the whole thing even sweeter!

A lot of handshakes before the start (Berlin and Brandenburg XC Champs).
Crowded start at the Berlin and Brandenburg XC Champs.
Enjoying a hot tea right after the victorious Berliner Ruder-Club XC relay.
Holger Leidig (full left) and part of the Leidig24 team, right after the Berliner Ruder-Club XC relay.

As usual, you can see all my training sessions details on the SportTracks mobi service.

Here the diary entries for the past November:

Su 01-11-15 Easy 20′, 2 strides, 3 x uphill reps circuit (downhill jog rest), CD.
Mo 02-11-15 Easy 35′, legs and core strength.
Tu 03-11-15 Off.
We 04-11-15 Slow 20′. Easy 15′, 2 strides, 4×500 m @ 3k race pace (200 m jog rest), CD.
Th 05-11-15 Slow 30′.
Fr 06-11-15 Off.
Sa 07-11-15 RACE: 9.6 km (BBM Cross – Luckenwalde).
Su 08-11-15 Slow 45′.
Mo 09-11-15 Measurements @ Kassel Uni.
Tu 10-11-15 Easy 20′, 2 strides, 1×600 m (1’41”), 3′ walk rest, 3×300 m (54″-49″-47″, 100 m jog rest), 5′ walk rest, easy 4×200 m, CD.
We 11-11-15 Off.
Th 12-11-15 Easy 30′, 2 strides, 1×800 m (fast straights, medium corners), 3′ walk rest, 3×200 m (200 m jog rest), CD.
Fr 13-11-15 Off.
Sa 14-11-15 45′ with some XC.
Su 15-11-15 Arms, legs and core strength. Easy 40′.
Mo 16-11-15 40′ with some fartlek.
Tu 17-11-15 40′ ice speed skating.
We 18-11-15 Easy 40′ with some XC sections.
Th 19-11-15 Easy 20′ with some strides.
Fr 20-11-15 Off.
Sa 21-11-15 35′ jog, Adidas RUNBASE Berlin pre-opening, arms, legs and core strength.
Su 22-11-15 RACE: 5 km (TÜV Rheinland Airfield Run – Berlin).
Mo 23-11-15 40′ ice speed skating.
Tu 24-11-15 Easy 55′.
We 25-11-15 Easy 15′, 2 strides, 1×600 m, 200 m jog rest, 1×300 m, 3′ walk rest, 4×200 m on grass (200 m jog rest), 15′.
Th 26-11-15 Easy 20′.
Fr 27-11-15 Easy 55′.
Sa 28-11-15 Easy 30′.
Su 29-11-15 RACE: 6.2 km (32. Berliner Ruder-Club Cross-Staffellauf – Berlin). Arms and core strength.
Mo 30-11-15 Slow 30′.

October 2015 – Training recap

October is usually an easy month for running. Not for my PhD though. The annual Autumn School we organise and a recent publication of ours on foot strike patterns really filled every free spot in my schedule. A little cold around half month took me down for around 10 days, but was nothing serious fortunately. In preparation for another full month, I did only a few kilometres and started to get into the XC mood!

As usual, you can see all my training sessions details on the SportTracks mobi service.
Here the diary entries for the past October:

Th 01/10/2015 Off.
Fr 02/10/2015 Measurements @ HU Berlin, easy 30′.
Sa 03/10/2015 RACE: 11.9 km XC (Sägerserie 2015 – 1. Lauf).
Su 04/10/2015 Slow 30′. 40′ aggressive inline (skate park).
Mo 05/10/2015 Easy 35′.
Tu 06/10/2015 Off.
We 07/10/2015 Off.
Th 08/10/2015 Off.
Fr 09/10/2015 Off.
Sa 10/10/2015 Slow 30′.
Su 11/10/2015 Off.
Mo 12/10/2015 Easy 50′ with some hills. 30′ ice skating.
Tu 13/10/2015 15′, 15′ fartlek, 15′.
We 14/10/2015 Slow 40′.
Th 15/10/2015 Ill. Core strength.
Fr 16/10/2015 Off. Ill.
Sa 17/10/2015 40′ XC roller ski.
Su 18/10/2015 Slow 25′, arms, legs and core strength.
Mo 19/10/2015 Easy 45′.
Tu 20/10/2015 Easy 40′.
We 21/10/2015 45′ with some XC.
Th 22/10/2015 Slow 30′.
Fr 23/10/2015 Off.
Sa 24/10/2015 40′ ice speed skating. 10′, running drills, 2 strides, 5×200 m (200 m jog rest), CD. Arms, legs and core strength.
Su 25/10/2015 Legs and core strength. Easy 55′.
Mo 26/10/2015 Easy 30′.
Tu 27/10/2015 Core strength.
We 28/10/2015 45′ XC.
Th 29/10/2015 15′, 15′ fartlek, 15′.
Fr 30/10/2015 Off.

Sa 31/10/2015 Easy 60′.

Do you know how you run? A study on foot strike patterns.

In the past three years, for my PhD, I had the chance to evaluate the running technique of around 250 people. I dealt with a wide spectrum of experience levels an running styles. The most common feedback I received, though, is that people don’t know how they run. Even semi-pros.
An article about foot strike patterns, of which I am the first author, was published two days ago on the Annals of Biomedical Engineering. This study was mainly aimed to validate an automatic foot strike patterns assessment method. But what is the foot strike pattern (FSP)? Nothing more than the way our feet come in contact with the ground. If you simply divide the foot into three equal parts, you can call them fore- mid- and rearfoot (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 Foot division and nomenclature.
By looking at which of the three parts comes first in contact with the ground, one can determine the FSP and classify it as forefoot, midfoot or rearfoot strike (FS, MS and RS, respectively). It would be possible to use a videocamera to analyze this kind of events, but we went a step further by using a pressure plate integrated in a treadmill. With an algorithm we developed, we are now able to recognise the FSP automatically, without the need of looking at the data. In Figure 2 you can see what happens on the pressure plate at impact and the relative video frame captured by a slow motion camera.
Figure 2 Video and pressure plate data for different FSPs.
Funny thing is that, if you ask the people how they think they run, very often they cannot predict their FSP. Interestingly enough, though, it is very likely that they will show a RS pattern while running shod. Across the 145 people measured (85 male, 60 female) almost 9 every 10 were striking with the heel first when wearing shoes. On the contrary, only 5 out of 10 were keeping this kind of pattern when running barefoot (see Figure 3). Apparently, the fear of getting hurt prevails on the well-established coordination patterns.
Figure 3 FSP distribution across two running conditions at preferred speed.

The reasons why people choose one or the other FSP are far from being completely understood. And this is what makes my job awesome.

September 2015 – Training recap

With September the preparation for the winter season continued in the name of volume with just a bit of quality. I kept on running some 10k race pace and started retrieving a bit of speed.

As usual, you can see all my training sessions details on the SportTracks mobi service.

Here the diary entries for the past September:

Tu 01/09/2015 Off.
We 02/09/2015 Easy 40′.
Th 03/09/2015 Easy 45′ with some intervals (15’+10×30″+15′).
Fr 04/09/2015 105′ sailing (Uni-Jolle, Friday Regatta).
Sa 05/09/2015 Legs and core strength. Off.
Su 06/09/2015 Arms, legs and core strength. Easy 60′, 5×100 m strides (100 m jog rest).
Mo 07/09/2015 Easy 40′.
Tu 08/09/2015 Easy 15′, 4 km tempo run (10 km race pace), easy 15′.
We 09/09/2015 15′, 2 strides on grass, 8×60 m sprints on grass (60 m jog rest), CD.
Th 10/09/2015 Arms, legs and core strength.
Fr 11/09/2015 Easy 60′.
Sa 12/09/2015 Slow 40′. 90′ sailing (Laser Bahia).
Su 13/09/2015 55′ slow inline skating.
Mo 14/09/2015 Hilly 20′. 25′ progression.
Tu 15/09/2015 Easy 45′.
We 16/09/2015 20′, 2 strides, 5×200 m uphill reps, CD.
Th 17/09/2015 20′, 2 strides on grass, 2x(200, 300 m on grass, 100, 200 m jog rest), 5×60 m sprints, CD.
Fr 18/09/2015 Slow 40′, arms legs and core strength.
Sa 19/09/2015 45′ aggressive inline (skate park).
Su 20/09/2015 Easy 60′.
Mo 21/09/2015 Easy 30′, 10×100 m uphill sprints (100 m downhill jog rest), CD.
Tu 22/09/2015 Slow 40′.
We 23/09/2015 60′ MTB.
Th 24/09/2015 Easy 45′.
Fr 25/09/2015 Arms, legs and core strength. Easy 45′.
Sa 26/09/2015 Slow 20′, 2 strides, 4×300 m strides (150 m jog rest), slow 15′. 60′ aggressive inline (skate park).
Su 27/09/2015 Slow 25′, 1×1000 m, short CD, 90′ MTB. Easy 30′.
Mo 28/09/2015 20′, 4 strides, 2×4 laps relay (8×250 m, 100 m jog rest), CD.
Tu 29/09/2015 Off.
We 30/09/2015 Easy 40′ with some speed.

August 2015 – Training recap

After some wonderful weeks spent at congresses and on holiday, it’s again time to think about the winter season. August has been quite relaxed even if the mileage increased considerably. When possible, I tried to jump on a bike or start back sailing, in order to cross train a bit. Some days in Italy allowed me to enjoy some beautiful hill and mountain sessions. Just one race during this month: a 5×4.2195 m relay I used to test my 10k race pace.

The relay team after the 4. BARMER GEK Halbmarathon-Staffel 2015. © LEIDIG24 Triathlon Team.

As usual, you can see all my training sessions details on the SportTracks mobi service.

Here the diary entries for the past August:

Sa 01/08/2015 Easy, hilly, 35′.
Su 02/08/2015 65′ technical trail.
Mo 03/08/2015 Easy, hilly 25′, slow 15′, running drills, 4 strides on grass.
Tu 04/08/2015 Arms and core strength.
We 05/08/2015 Easy 20′. Easy, hilly 20′, hurdles and running drills, 2 laps on grass (long side fast, short side slow), 1+2 laps progression on grass, 4 strides on grass.
Th 06/08/2015 Core strength.
Fr 07/08/2015 120′ MTB.
Sa 08/08/2015 Off. Trip.
Su 09/08/2015 Easy 50′. 40 km road bike.
Mo 10/08/2015 Slow 30′.
Tu 11/08/2015 Easy 20′, running drills, 2 strides, 5×200 m (200 m jog rest), CD. Off.
We 12/08/2015 50′.
Th 13/08/2015 Arms and core strength.
Fr 14/08/2015 50′. 30′ jog.
Sa 15/08/2015 Easy 30′.
Su 16/08/2015 Easy 35′, 2 strides, 1×200 m uphill (200 m jog rest), 3×950 m XC laps (float uphills, easy downhills), CD.
Mo 17/08/2015 40′ with some progression.
Tu 18/08/2015 Easy 20′, 2 strides on grass, 6×300 m on grass (200 m jog rest), CD.
We 19/08/2015 Slow 40′.
Th 20/08/2015 Easy 15′, float 8′, slow 15′.
Fr 21/08/2015 Easy 30′.
Sa 22/08/2015 15′, hilly 10′ (float uphills), 10′. Easy 25′.
Su 23/08/2015 Easy 30′.
Mo 24/08/2015 60′.
Tu 25/08/2015 Slow 15′, 5×100 m strides on grass (100 m jog rest), slow 15′.
We 26/08/2015 RACE: 4.2 km (4. BARMER GEK Halbmarathon-Staffel).
Th 27/08/2015 45′.
Fr 28/08/2015 Easy 45′ with some fartlek (15’+15′ fartlek+15′).
Sa 29/08/2015 Arms, legs and core strength. 25′.
Su 30/08/2015 140′ sailing (Laser Bahia). 25′.
Mo 31/08/2015 Off.

"Non Solo Sport Race" – Padova, 28th August 2011

A funny route through the city of Padova, a beneficence meaning, nearly 5000 people. The good ingredients for a pleasant night race of 10.40 km (official site), in preparation of the Gazzetta Run in Jesolo, on Saturday, 3rd September 2011 (info here).
Here I post some pics and the GPS recorded track. The results are available here.

Gigantic avalanche set off on Cheget Mountain, Russia

From, a nice video, available in HD too. Patrollers send off a charge on Cheget Mountain, Russia, creating a massive avalanche that reaches the valley floor and almost covers the audience that gathers to watch the huge face slide. Amazing!

And after watching the video…don’t forget to support me!
From Mammut® website:
“150 years of Mammut®. […] Between now and our anniversary year of 2012, 150 teams will embark upon the biggest peak project in history and scale 150 mountains.”
Support my project and become part of MY MOUNTAIN (click here to join, please)! I could create my own team and be one of the 150!

MAMMUT® presents: the biggest peak project in history – PHASE 1

Good news for all my supporters! My mountain is in the top 50 now and the possibilities of reaching the second step are every day higher. Thank you all for your support and for those who didn’t vote yet, don’t forget that this first step is gonna end on May, 6th, so there’s still a lot of time for you to support me!
From Mammut® website:
“150 years of Mammut®. […] Between now and our anniversary year of 2012, 150 teams will embark upon the biggest peak project in history and scale 150 mountains.”
Support my project and become part of MY MOUNTAIN (click here to join, please)! I could create my own team and be one of the 150!