Elite Runners Footstrike Pattern, How they Land

When I started running one of my first questions was how is the foot supposed to land during running. Was it the heel, mid foot or forefoot? I tried to read around but real evidence was scarce the ideas out there were personal opinion.To be honest I have never found the perfect answer, I try to run with the most comfortable style.

Japanese Elite Runners Running Style

The only scientific report I found was from the science of sport. It was done in 2004 in Japan, and published in 2007 in the Journal of Strength of Conditioning. The full reference, for those interested, is Hasegawa et al., J Strength & Cond., 2007, (21), 888-893

It was performed at the 2004 Sapporro International Half Marathon in Japan. The scientists set up a high speed camera  at the 15km mark of the race, and captured most of the runners coming through. In total, they were able to observe the foot strike of 248 men and 35 women, and characterize them as either heel-strikers, mid-foot or forefoot strikers. They also measured Ground Contact Time at the 15km point.

This was what they found:-

  • The vast majority (75%) of the elite runners land on their heel.
  • About 1 in 4 (24%) elite runner landed on their mid foot.
  • Only four out of 283 runners landed on their fore foot.

The fastest runners?

Non of the four runners who landed on the fore foot finished among the first four.

When the researchers divided the finishers into groups of 50, they started to see something of a change in mid-foot landing as you moved further down the list. In otherwords, there was a higher percentage of midfoot strikers in the first 50 runners than in the second, and then third, and so on.

2 thoughts on “Elite Runners Footstrike Pattern, How they Land

  1. Kevin

    4 out of 283 isn’t a very good sample size for a scientific study… but I think the rest of the results are promising. Keeping the foot dorsiflexed and beneath the body has incredible physiological advantages than heel striking in front of you. Most runners do not have the strength or endurance in their glutes/hamstrings to return their leg to a neutral position as the foot strikes the ground. Those that do are making gains. Watch out for mid-foot and forefoot runners. Forefoot running is the future!


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