Foot orienteering
The international orienteering symbol
Highest governing bodyInternational Orienteering Federation
First played28 May 1893, Stockholm, Sweden
Team membersIndividual
Mixed-sexSeparate categories
EquipmentMap, compass
World Games2001 – present

Foot orienteering (usually referred to as simply Orienteering or FootO for short) is the oldest formal orienteering sport, and the one with the most "starts" per year.[citation needed] Usually, a FootO is a timed race in which participants start at staggered intervals, are individually timed, and are expected to perform all navigation on their own. The control points are shown on the orienteering map and must be visited in the specified order. Standings are determined first by successful completion of the course, then by shortest time on course.

FootO is one of four orienteering disciplines governed by the International Orienteering Federation.


The history of orienteering began in the late 19th century in Sweden. The actual term "orienteering" was first used in 1886 and meant the crossing of unknown land with the aid of a map and a compass.[1] The first orienteering competition open to the public was held in Norway in 1897.[1] Notable dates for member nations of the IOF are shown below.

First public event National body founded First national championships First international event Other
Norway 1897 1945 (NOF) 1937 (Årnes/Kongsvinger) 1932[1] (Slora, Sørkedalen)
Sweden 1901[2] (SOFT) see below 1935[2] (Skinnskatteberg) or 1937[3]
The first Swedish national body was formed in 1935,[3] [or 1936[2]] to co-ordinate both foot and ski orienteering. In 1938 SOFT took over the sport for all foot races.[2][3]
Finland 1923[4] (1904[4] ski orienteering) 1935[4] 1935 (Vihti)
Estonia 1926 (Pirita) 1959 1959 (Nelijärve) 1973 (1969 ski orienteering)
Australia 1970 (OA) 1985 (Bendigo)
Canada[5] 1967 (COF) 1968 (Gatineau Park) 1976?
India (OFI)
Ireland 1969 (IOA) 1975
Italy 1976 (Ronzone)[6] 1986 (FISO) 1986 1993 (KastelruthJWOC)
New Zealand (NZOF)
South Africa 1981? (SAOF)
UK[3][7] 1962 1967 (BOF) 1967 (Hamsterley Forest) 1976 (Darnaway Forest)
US 1967 (Valley Forge, PA) 1971 (USOF) 1970 (Southern Illinois) 1986 (Hudson Valley – World Cup)
Russia/USSR 1959 (Leningrad) 1961 1963 (Uzgorod)


The official formats in the World Orienteering Championships,[8] which is followed by most regional and national championships, include the following:

Long distance

The long distance competition, previously called the classic distance competition, is the longest and toughest individual competition. Long competitions are held in forest, with expected winning time of 90–100 minutes for men and 70–80 minutes for women, in physically demanding terrain with large-scale route choices and varying scale of technical difficulties.

Middle distance

The middle distance competition, previously called the short distance competition, is a relatively shorter race held in forest, with expected winning time of 30–35 minutes in technically complex terrain.


Sprint competitions are high-speed competitions held in urban areas, which is technically easy but with difficult route choices. The expected winning time is 12–15 minutes.


The relay, composed of teams of 3, is a mass start event where different runners are separated by means of forking. The finish order is directly determined at the finish line.

Sprint relay

The sprint relay is run by teams of 4, where the first and the last must be women, in urban areas with mass start and forking. It is an exciting and television-friendly event where the runners compete head-to-head at a high-speed.

Knock-Out Sprint

Knock-Out sprint (KO-Sprint) is the newest form urban orienteering to be added to international competition. It consists of a short qualifier race of around 10–12 minutes to determine the seeding for a subsequent series of very short mass start elimination races of around 6–8 minutes. These elimination races normally consist of six runner with the top two or three progressing, and can contain gaffling, loops, or runner's choice selection. Similar to the sprint relay, it is high paced and television friendly, with the elimination rounds happening quickly one after another.

IOF events

World championships

Main article: World Orienteering Championships

The World Orienteering Championships are held annually. As of 2022, Europe has been dominant.

1 Sweden (SWE)685957184
2 Norway (NOR)525146149
3 Switzerland (SUI)473843128
4 Finland (FIN)24433299
5 France (FRA)1471132
6 Denmark (DEN)1210729
7 Russia (RUS)11121538
8 Great Britain (GBR)46515
9 Czech Republic (CZE)34512
10 Hungary (HUN)3126
11 Czechoslovakia (TCH)25815
12 Ukraine (UKR)1359
13 Austria (AUT)1102
14 Latvia (LAT)1023
15 Australia (AUS)1001
Independent Athletes[9]0202
16 New Zealand (NZL)0112
17 Soviet Union (URS)0022
18 Belarus (BLR)0011
 Belgium (BEL)0011
 Germany (GER)0011
 Italy (ITA)0011
 Netherlands (NED)0011
Totals (22 entries)244243246733

International championships


  1. ^ a b c "Past & present". International Orienteering Federation. Archived from the original on 2 August 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d "Milstolpar i utvecklingen" (in Swedish). Svenska Orienteringsförbundet. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d Disley, John (1978). Orienteering. London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-04930-3.
  4. ^ a b c "Historia | Suomen Suunnistusliitto". Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  5. ^ Canadian Orienteering Federation Archived 23 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved on 10 October 2008)
  6. ^ FISO Archived 20 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Italian Federation website
  7. ^ Archived 3 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine(Retrieved on 14 October 2008)
  8. ^ "IOF Competition Rules for Foot Orienteering, Appendix 6" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 December 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  9. ^ Due to the Russian doping scandal, russian athlethes competed under neutral flag in 2021.