What Foot Strike Photos From 10K Olympic Trials Say About Barefoot Running

foot strike photos olympic trials barefoot running vs normal running
If you’re a slightly nerdy runner like me—or if you’re one of thousands who’ve begun to wonder if the whole barefoot running trend is for you—it’s easy to geek out over foot strikes. Should you land on your forefoot, or should you land on your heel? Photos from BYU Biomechanics of the foot strikes of all 10k runners at the 2012 Olympic trials proves what I think is probably the best answer: That your foot should land however you damn well please.

The foot strikes, paired next to each athlete’s place and time in the trials, vary widely. But they all belong to elite athletes who, whether they made it to the Olympics or not, are amongst the world’s most talented runners. And yet, some clearly drive their heels into the ground, some land squarely on their forefoot, and others seem to practically land on their pinkie toes.

Here are the women’s photos:

foot strikes womens 10k olympic trials

And here are the men’s:

foot strikes mens 10k olympic trials

The moral of the story? If you love barefoot running and feel comfortable doing it, then go for it. If you just can’t stop running heel-first, and love a well-cushioned shoe that makes you feel like you’re running on clouds, then you, too, should go for it. There are risks and rewards of each methods, but at the end of the day, if it’s good enough for an Olympic athlete, it’s good enough for you (and both methods are). The most important thing is really just that you feel good doing it; otherwise it’s really hard to make yourself run at all.

Photos: BYU Biomechanics

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    • Pat Thomas

      What about injuries? Clearly forefoot and barefoot running result in fewer debilitating foot, ankle and knee injuries according to research and runner reports. Safety first!

    • Ana Rose

      The point of paying attention to the foot strike differential is not for speed, but for overall healthy foot/ankle/knee/back biomechanics. Just because an athlete is “talented” doesn’t mean they’re doing the supportive thing for themselves over the long haul. Plenty of talented athletes see physical therapists for chronic foot injuries, myself included.

      • Andy Beckwith

        Well said. This article isn’t very substantial.

    • klopdx

      Um, this is the least scientific article I’ve read in a while. One foot strike out of how many? Correalated to injury how? Such flimsiness!