Journal of Applied Physiology

Economy and rate of carbohydrate oxidation during running with rearfoot and forefoot strike patterns

Allison H. Gruber, Brian R. Umberger, Barry Braun, Joseph Hamill


It continues to be argued that a forefoot (FF) strike pattern during running is more economical than a rearfoot (RF) pattern; however, previous studies using one habitual footstrike group have found no difference in running economy between footstrike patterns. We aimed to conduct a more extensive study by including both habitual RF and FF runners. The purposes of this study were to determine if there were differences in running economy between these groups and if running economy would change when they ran with the alternative footstrike pattern. Nineteen habitual RF and 18 habitual FF runners performed the RF and FF patterns on a treadmill at 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 m•s-1. Steady-state rates of oxygen consumption (VO2, ml•kg-1•min-1) and carbohydrate contribution to total energy expenditure (%CHO) were determined by indirect calorimetry for each footstrike pattern and speed condition. A mixed-model ANOVA was used to assess the differences in each variable between groups and footstrike patterns (α=0.05). No differences in VO2 or %CHO were detected between groups when running with their habitual footstrike pattern. The RF pattern resulted in lower VO2 and %CHO compared to the FF pattern at the slow and medium speeds in the RF group (P<0.05) but not in the FF group (P>0.05). At the fast speed, a significant pattern main effect indicated that VO2 was greater with the FF pattern than the RF pattern (P<0.05) but %CHO was not different (P>0.05). The results suggest that the FF pattern is not more economical than the RF pattern.

  • running economy
  • footstrike patterns
  • sub-maximal oxygen consumption
  • running performance