The Relationship of Foot Strike Pattern, Shoe Type, and Performance in a 50-km Trail Race

J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Jun;30(6):1633-7. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182a20ed4.


Recent "in-race" studies have observed the foot strike patterns of runners in traditional road marathon races. However, similar studies have not been conducted for trail runners, which have been estimated to account for 11% of all runners. The purpose of this study was to (a) determine the rear-foot strike (RFS) prevalence in a 50-km trail race and compare with traditional road marathon races; (b) determine if there is a relationship between foot strike and sex in a 50-km trail race; and (c) determine if there is a relationship between foot strike, shoe type, and performance in a 50-km trail race. One hundred sixty-five runners were videotaped at the 8.1-km mark of the 2012 Ice Age Trail 50-km race. Foot strike analysis revealed RFS prevalence of 85.1%, less than previously reported in traditional road marathon races. There was no relationship found between sex and foot strike (p = 0.60). A significant effect of shoe type on foot strike (RFS was less common among runners in minimalist shoes, p < 0.01) and performance (faster runners were more likely to be wearing minimalist shoes, p < 0.01) was observed; however, no association between foot strike and performance was observed (p = 0.83). This study suggests that most trail runners, albeit less than road runners, prefer an RFS pattern, which is accompanied by biomechanical consequences unique from a non-RFS pattern and, therefore, likely carries a unique injury profile. In addition, the findings in this study suggest that minimalist shoes may represent a reasonable training modification to improve performance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Female
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Running / injuries
  • Running / physiology*
  • Shoes*
  • Video Recording