Foot Strike Comparisons – Alex J. Hancock

For this exploration, I elected to examine a facet of bodily exploration important within distance running,
a world with which I am very familiar. The method in which a distance runner strikes the pavement with
their foot can have a massive impact on the sustainability of their training. There are those who argue

running shoes have done us a fundamental disservice in cultivating an unhealthy strike amongst runners.

If you look at the two x-ray images above, one thing becomes abundantly clear. People who wear
running shoes are prone to have the initial point of impact be the heel. Medical research has implicated

this as a primary cause of “shin splints” among other common forms of injury amongst distance runners.
The x-ray on the right, illustrating the barefoot strike shows a much more natural and tenable method of
impact with the strike being centered towards the front of the foot. This allows the muscles to sit in an

unstrained position and directs the force of impact up the stable support structure of the bones of the
foot and lower leg. This natural striking method, displayed clearly by medical imaging technology serves
as justification for why people in the Sahara have been able to grow up running hundreds of barefoot

miles a week and never develop sore muscles but why so many runners in the western world have
issues with the muscles in their shins and feet after just a few miles.

The construction of many running shoes encourage a runner to strike with the heel first and roll towards

the toes. As medical research has proven this to be detrimental to the bone and muscle structure of the
lower leg, many companies have begun to offer “minimalistic” running shoes designed to mimic a
barefoot experience, but still give you a very thin layer of protection from the ground. Nike released their

“Free” line of shoes and Vibram has released their “Five Fingers” model which feature individual slots for
one’s toes to truly simulate a barefoot feeling in response to such research.

Running marathons has been a passion of mine for four years and I run hundreds of miles a year. I have

had my strike examined on a treadmill outfitted with cameras and discovered I adopted a more natural
forward strike despite wearing normal running shoes throughout my running career. However, as
countless medical images and research suggest, I seem to be the exception rather than the norm.

Alex J. Hancock



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