The debate never ends.
First – know that I’m not a running coach. I’m a guy that has done a ton of research on the internet, watch even more videos, and made drastic changes in my stride. When I write running advice, I’m speaking from personal experience, and from what I’ve learned. Now – the advice:
STOP WORRYING ABOUT HEAL, MID, OR FOREFOOT STRIKE!
Yes, I said it. Of all the things you could be focusing on while running, foot strike is the least of your worries. How do I know this? Because you are most likely researching foot strike because of running injuries that you keep getting. If you keep getting running injuries, it is your running form that is bad, and NOT because you HEAL strike. A lot of excellent (and very fast) runners are heal strikers. Focusing on Heal Striking vs Midfoot vs Forefoot striking is looking at a very small part of the problem. I’ll say it one more time – STOP FOCUSING ON HEAL, MID, & FOREFOOT STRIKING!
Instead, focus on WHERE your foot strikes the ground in relation to your hips.
The cause of your running pains, and most of your injuries, is most likely that you are over striding. That’s it. It’s not any more complicated than that. When you over stride, you get that “braking” motion that you hear about. This impact jars everything in the foot, ankle, shin, calf, knee, thigh, and hip. Think about that for a minute. You are moving along at say 8 mph and you throw your leg out in front of you, reaching for that next step, and you slam your heal into the ground. You were moving at 8 mph and you slammed your heal into the ground in front of your body. Do this thousands of times per week, and you will get injured.
How to fix a bad running stride
What can you do about it? Here are 5 tips that should improve your running stride and eliminate most of your running related injuries. Changing your running stride will feel funny at first, but if you stick with it, and follow these steps, you will notice a change, you will probably get faster, and most importantly, your running injuries and pains will most likely dissipate.
1) Where your foot strikes the ground while running – your feet should strike the ground directly UNDER your hips. It will feel funny at first, like your are not moving at all, and you are about to tip over, but stick with it (and #2 and #3 listed below) and your running will improve greatly, and your pains will disappear.
2) Being upright while running – you should feel as though there is a string attached to the top of your head, and the other end is attached to a wire above you, pulling your head up and straightening out your body.
3) A forward lean – This lean is from the ankles, NOT your waist. You will feel almost as if you are going to “fall” forward
4) Cadence – Increase your cadence (or figure out where your natural cadence is now and increase it from there) This will be very fatiguing at first, but your cardio WILL adjust. The so called “magic” number is in the 180 range. This is NOT a hard rule. If you use a Garmin with a foot pod – it will record every other step, so your cadence on your watch will show 90 instead of 180. 180+ IS MY RACE PACE. Most of my training runs are done in an 83 – 88 (166 – 176) range. You most likely won’t have to actually concentrate on cadence at first (and maybe never) because if you do 1 – 3, you will find yourself taking slightly shorter steps, (because you are no longer over striding) which will naturally increase your cadence.
5) Toe Off – This will only apply to you if you are concerned about getting faster. There are 2 ways to move faster (Cadence is the first) and Toe Off. If you focus on pushing the ground behind you – you will find you run faster. I like to think of the earth as a big spinning ball J and that I can make it spin faster by pushing harder behind me. The harder I push, the faster I make it spin. This, for me, makes me focus on nice long strides BEHIND ME. Too many runners try to run faster by reaching further. This causes and overstride, and a braking motion that causes the majority of running injuries we all hear about.
Good luck. I wish you injury free running.