The debate between the “traditionalist” heel strike, running shoe crowd and the “new wave” barefoot/forefoot/midfoot/minimalist runners and supporters of each side continues to heat up. Both sides have their strong loyal supporters, which include doctors, and scientists, each claim that the other is wrong and that they are right. But who to believe?
The running shoe industry, heel strike runners and many doctors will cite the fact that there is no research to show that fore/midfoot running is good for you. They’ll talk for hours about how much money and research goes into running shoe design to help make running safer and decrease risk of injury. What they won’t tell you, and most don’t know, is that there is NO research based evidence that the running shoes you’ve been told to wear are actually good for you. None. The running shoe companies will all tell you differently all show the research that they have done, but no independent researcher has been able to back up their claims.
On the flip side, the fore/midfoot runners will cite centuries of people running on the front of their feet without running shoes and doing just fine. But just because something has been done for centuries doesn’t necessarily make it right or good. They used to drill holes in a person’s skull to release demons and evil spirits. Human sacrifices were made for thousands of years. Times change, and improvements are made.
Facts are, neither side has much in the way of actual proof of which way or running is better or whether or not running shoes are good for you. I personally think this is a choice that the individual needs to make for themselves. There is plenty that you can read about it out there to help you make an informed decision. I myself chose after many years to switch from heel striker/pronation control running shoe wearer to midfoot/minimalist runner and I have done so successfully and don’t intend on switching back. I do know people that have tried to do the same, got injured, and went back to what they were doing before.
As an athletic trainer I’ve been watching the trend of fore/midfoot running grow with my athletes. The sample size is too small to use as proof, but I’ve noticed that the athletes that are in the process of changing from one way of running to the other seem to have an increased incidence of injury. However, once they have fully adapted to running fore/midfoot, I’ve seen a decrease in injuries in them compared to their heel striking team mates. They still get injured (muscle strains, etc), but don’t seem to get as many of the chronic injuries (shin splints, arch/Achilles/ankle pain, calf pain/tightness, knee pain…) that their team mates do.
I think whichever side of the fence you decide to park your feet on needs to be a personal decision. I do know that it is important though, that if you do change how you run (whether going from heel strike to fore/midfoot or from fore/midfoot to heel strike) that you do so slowly and carefully. They are two very different running styles and each requires different strengths and techniques that take time to develop. No matter how strong or good of a runner you are, if you don’t start out when you switch like you’re just starting to run for the first time, you are setting yourself up for injury. Just like if you haven’t lifted weights, worked out, or run in years and you go out and overdo it, you will get hurt, overdoing it when switching is a sure recipe for disaster (this doesn’t just come from my knowledge as an athletic trainer, but also from my personal experience of being a head strong runner: Ex 1, ex 2, ex 3).
Read up on the topic, think carefully, and make the right decision for you. Some day we may have the evidence to support one side or the other, but for now the decision is all on you. Just whatever you do, be smart and take it gradually.