Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Running Technique Change Could Increase Chance of Injury

Changing your running technique might not offer performance and injury avoidance benefits.

Changing your running technique from a rearfoot strike (landing on your heel first) to a forefoot strike (landing on the ball of your foot first) might not offer the performance and injury avoidance benefits that running blogs would have you believe. In fact, research conducted within The University of Western Australia's School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health suggests that doing so may even have adverse repercussions.

According to a study published in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, those with a natural rearfoot strike had to produce nearly 20% more work in their legs after changing to the unfamiliar forefoot strike technique. Furthermore, the risk of injury to the ankle and hip significantly increased when running technique was changed to the unfamiliar forefoot strike.

“If you are a rearfoot strike runner, which 75% of people are, stick to what you know,” warns lead author Sarah Stearne. “Changing to a forefoot strike technique could increase your chance of injury and will most likely slow you down.”

However, the research also found that those who naturally use a forefoot strike when running may benefit from changing to a rearfoot strike. Forefoot strikers changing to the unfamiliar rearfoot strike technique reduced the work done by the leg by 10% and load on the ankle by one-third. Although this switch is much less common among runners, it could prove a useful strategy during rehabilitation from an ankle injury.

“If you are plagued by a persistent injury, changing foot strike technique does alter the loads on your joints, so it may be useful,” Stearne said. “However, while lowering the risk of certain injuries, the risk of acquiring others is increased, so be sure to take it slow and seek advice from a qualified running coach.”