To determine prevalence of heel strike in a midsize city marathon, if there is an association between foot-strike classification and race performance, and if there is an association between foot-strike classification and gender.
Foot-strike classification (forefoot, midfoot, heel, or split strike), gender, and rank (position in race) were recorded at the 8.1-km mark for 2112 runners at the 2011 Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon.
1991 runners were classified by foot-strike pattern, revealing a heel-strike prevalence of 93.67% (n = 1865). A significant difference between foot-strike classification and performance was found using a Kruskal-Wallis test (P < .0001), with more elite performers being less likely to heel strike. No significant difference between foot-strike classification and gender was found using a Fisher exact test. In addition, subgroup analysis of the 126 non-heel strikers found no significant difference between shoe wear and performance using a Kruskal-Wallis test.
The high prevalence of heel striking observed in this study reflects the foot-strike pattern of most mid-distance to long-distance runners and, more important, may predict their injury profile based on the biomechanics of a heel-strike running pattern. This knowledge can help clinicians appropriately diagnose, manage, and train modifications of injured runners.