What does an elephant, a woman in high heels and a forefoot runner have in common? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.
This may seem like a strange episode, but I was just having a conversation with a runner who is a, not just a forefoot runner, but she’s really a forefoot runner like running on your tiptoes kind of forefoot runner and one of the things that I brought up with her was a number of studies that have actually talked about the amount of pressure in the forefoot when a woman is wearing high heels.
There was a research study from 2003 that actually showed that when you look at the actual pressure under the foot, under the forefoot specifically in a woman who is wearing high heels, that a 100-pound woman wearing high heels actually has more pressure, more pounds per square inch of pressure than an elephant, 6000 pound elephant barefoot.
How is that possible? Well, one thing is that when you’re standing on really steep high heels, it tilts the metatarsals at such a steep angle, it puts a lot more pressure on those points under the metatarsal and in addition, the whole foot is not actually on the ground. An elephant also has a significantly larger foot and when an elephant walks, they actually have two feet on the ground at the same time. So, believe it or not, a woman in high heels actually has more pressure than a 6000 pound elephant.
But how is this relevant to runners? Well, with this particular runner who is having lots of issues, who is really an aggressively angled forefoot runner, really running on the ball of the foot, although there’s not a lot of research around this, it seems like if you’re running way too far on the forefoot that you actually are putting more stress on the foot because number one, the metatarsals are tilted up at a steeper angle, but also when you supinate your foot aggressively landing and walking on your tiptoes basically, it keeps your foot locked and supinated and doesn’t absorb forces as dynamically.
I am not one of those people who is trying to criticize forefoot running or thinking that you just need cushion shoes you can run as a heel striker. I think that there is certainly a lot of benefit in analyzing your run form looking at it and trying to figure out if you’re a heel striker, you might actually have less injuries and be able to run better, faster, train more, all of that. If you’re more of a mid-foot striker and although many really really fast sprint athletes run on their toes the same way, they’re not running marathons or ultramarathons.
So, it’s really important to think about these things in terms of you specifically, your specific foot type, the way that your foot is hitting the ground when you’re running and see if that might be contributing to some of the trouble you’re having. And sometimes some small adjustments just decreasing the amount of steepness in your game when you’re a forefoot runner might actually really help you.
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