BLOG: Footstrike of the Local Jogger – Marc See (B.Sc Physio)

After coming back from the Calgary International Running Symposium, Ben and I had a lot of ideas running through our heads. One of the prominent ones for me was “how do we compare to the world?” Over the coming weeks I will go through what I have found from analysing “our local jogger.”

There is a lot of research and data out there about how runners move. Kinematic data is all about angles and timing and is one of the easiest forms to collect when filming runners. Last year at the Boston marathon Martyn Shorten, a prominent biomechanics researcher filmed all participants (over 23 000) part way through the race. He recorded foot strike type and heel-toe pitch.

With the running technique workshops we have run almost every 2nd month for the past 2 year,s I thought we’d have a great chance to analyse what we see in our local runners and compare it to what has been found in runners across the globe.


Mind – body disconnect:

We all know our bodies so well, or at least we SHOULD, we’ve known ourselves our entire lives. However most of us are not very good at feeling what we do, how we move or describing a movement we did a second ago. A perfect example of this is the comparison of the Boston footage Martyn collected against the results of footstike data to his online surveys completed by Runner’s World magazine subscribers (over 2 million):


  Boston Footage Survey answers
Heel strike 95.6% 43.1%
Flat foot (midfoot) strike 2.4% 40.9%
Forefoot strike 2% 15%


As you can see there is a large gap between what people think they are doing, what they experience when they run and what ACTUALLY happens upon observation.

One of the reasons Martyn came up for why so many people answered the surveys to say “non-heelstrikers” was that “heel striking is a socially acquired disease that runners are scared to admit to.” Social media and fads have caused us to question heel striking, as such many people want to believe they aren’t doing it, or not let it be known that they are just in case they are ostracised. There is also that body disconnect factor, do people actually have the ability to notice what is going on when their foot and shoe hit the ground? This is one of the advertising strategies minimal shoe companies use – less shoe material makes it easier to FEEL.

Our own data is a little kinder on the “non-heel strikers”

  Jogging (5/10 speed) Sprinting (8/10 speed)
Heel strike 83.33% 77.59%
Midfoot strike 8.62% 11.49%
Forefoot strike 8.05% 10.92%
Average heel-toe pitch 17.43o 13.21o


The jogging or sprinting speed was one where we asked people to run at 5 or 8/10, with 10 being their absolute maximum speed.

The high majority of runners were again, “heel strikers”. However this trend continued into the faster speeds, where we would expect a transition to midfoot and forefoot running to reduce contact time and help enhance speed across the ground. This highlights the motor-learning aspect of running. When people run at a “sprint”, which is up and above their normal, comfortable, regularly practiced jogging speed, they do not know how to alter their stable movement pattern to one which is optimal for the new task. In short, few are taught or practice the skill of running fast and so cannot perform it well.

With greater information, people can make better decisions. That is true right down to the fine detail of how you move. The better information you have from your body about HOW you move, the better equipped you are to change it. Pain, blisters, impact shock, muscle aches, instantaneous muscle tension, burning sensations… these are all different elements of the sensory feedback your body can use to know HOW it is moving… if you can listen.

But if you are still learning that mind-body skill, that is where we come in.

  • Analysis to show you what you REALLY do, not just what you think you do
  • Compare it to normal/healthy/optimal patterns of movement
  • Set up a plan to change any necessary parts of the running pattern
  • Re-train/teach the movement with strength, motor control drills and coaching/feedback
  • Re-assess to track the improvements and check progress towards the goals

So when you can’t trust your own thoughts, Trust the experts.

Marc See (B.Sc Physiotherapy)



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