Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Influence of Shoe Type and Foot Strike Pattern on Loading Rates in Runners

July 11, 2016

The selection of running shoes continues to be a controversial topic in the sport.  Arguments are heard from both sides of the running shoe continuum from barefoot/minimalist to heavily cushioned shoes.  Both groups advocate their product based on its’ perceived influence on reducing the large numbers of running injuries seen every year among both recreational and professional runners.  In addition to shoe wear many athletes are pushed toward either a fore or rear foot strike gait pattern to reduce adverse loading during each foot contact with the ground.  As we have noted in a previous post their are benefits to both contact approaches.

A recent study by Harvard University’s Spaulding National Running Center examined the impact of foot strike pattern and shoe wear on loading rates during running (Rice et al. Med Sci Sp Ex. 2016).  The authors studies 29 healthy runners as they ran in their preferred gait pattern and shoe type.  Not surprisingly, athletes who used minimalist shoes with a fore foot running pattern had the lowest force rates compared to runners who ran in either foot strike pattern in traditional running shoes.  Authors noted runners who habituated to the minimalist shoe and used a fore foot strike pattern had the lowest impacts at landing.  Among the runners using standard shoes, similar load rates were noted between forefoot and rearfoot patterns.