Purpose: This study aimed to analyze the influence of foot strike pattern on running economy and biomechanical characteristics in subelite runners with a similar performance level.
Methods: Twenty subelite long-distance runners participated and were divided into two groups according to their foot strike pattern: rearfoot (RF, n = 10) and midfoot (MF, n = 10) strikers. Anthropometric characteristics were measured (height, body mass, body mass index, skinfolds, circumferences, and lengths); physiological (V˙O2max, anaerobic threshold, and running economy) and biomechanical characteristics (contact and flight times, step rate, and step length) were registered during both incremental and submaximal tests on a treadmill.
Results: There were no significant intergroup differences in anthropometrics, V˙O2max, or anaerobic threshold measures. RF strikers were 5.4%, 9.3%, and 5.0% more economical than MF at submaximal speeds (11, 13, and 15 km·h−1 respectively, although the difference was not significant at 15 km·h−1, P = 0.07). Step rate and step length were not different between groups, but RF showed longer contact time (P < 0.01) and shorter flight time (P < 0.01) than MF at all running speeds.
Conclusions: The present study showed that habitually rearfoot striking runners are more economical than midfoot strikers. Foot strike pattern affected both contact and flight times, which may explain the differences in running economy.