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Study links foot strike and injury

If you're a heel striker, are you more likely to become injured? A new study has produced surprisingly controversial findings.

If you’re a heel striker, are you more likely to become injured? A new study has produced surprisingly controversial findings.

According to a New York Times blog, Harvard University researchers studied members from the school’s men’s and women’s distance running squats to examine running-related injuries. Using four years of research, they say how a person runs may affect whether or not he or she gets injured.

Adam I. Daoud, a graduate student in the Skeletal Biology Laboratory at Harvard, and Daniel Lieberman, the lab’s director, looked at the cross-country team’s training database and videotaped the team. They found that those runners who were predominantly heel strikers were more likely to be injured than those who were forefoot strikers.

The study did note, however, that no runner is consistently a forefoot or heel striker. But they did find that, of the 52 runners, 69 per cent were heel strikers, while 31 per cent were forefoot strikers. About two-thirds of the group were injured enough to miss two or more training days each year, but heel strikers were much more prone to injury.

Does that mean we should change our running form? “If you’re not getting hurt, then absolutely not. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Lieberman told the Times.

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If you are frequently injured, both Lieberman and Daoud say if you’re a heel striker, you may want to slowly try and reshape your stride. Daoud recommends trying to land on the ball of your foot for five minutes at the end of a run, and slowly work your way up to longer periods if you don’t notice any pain or soreness.