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Footstrikes and the Elusive ‘Perfect Stride’

August 14th, 2013

Image: Dr. Iain Hunter / BYU Biomechanics Lab

It’s an age-old question: what’s the best running form?

Especially common in conversation among runners is the topic of footstrike: how much does part of the foot that comes into contact with the ground first affect your ability to run faster, and with reduced chance of injury? Though current theories suggest a mid-to-forefoot strike to be “ideal,” the science is still very much in the air.

Rather than just studying biomechanic models, why not come at this topic by taking a look at the actual strides of the top runners in the world? Aside from being the fastest, these runners have warded off injury enough to make it to their level, so if there is a “perfect” footstrike, surely it would be shared amongst the running elite, right?

This is what Dr. Iain Hunter of Brigham Young University wanted to find out. Using a high speed camera placed trackside, Hunter recorded the strides of the runners in a number of distance events at the 2012 US Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

Olympic Trials Men’s 10,000m – Video: Dr. Iain Hunter/BYU Biomechanics Lab

Think a midfoot strike is the key to running success? The results may not be so conclusive. Though many of the runners do exhibit the coveted mid-to-forefoot strike, there is much variation in footstrike patterns from runner to runner. If anything, this shows us that there is no perfect stride – every runner will be a little different in what is most effective for them.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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