Proper running technique:
Heel Strike vs Mid-foot Strike vs Forefoot Strike. What is the proper running technique to minimize injury, maximize efficiency, and increase enjoyment from running?
Just when you thought that all studies pointed towards a more mid-foot / forefoot strike as the answer to all your questions, a new study comes out saying otherwise. I am not here to defend the study nor the results of it, but reading the linked article made me think of my own personal journey with running, so I thought I would share with you what I’ve learned.
I have done a lot of reading and researching regarding “proper running technique” and one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that it’s not so much a heel vs. mid-foot vs forefoot strike issue as it is WHERE your foot strikes the ground.
Most runners who are looking to change their stride are doing so due to injuries or soreness from running (I was in that group). Most of these injuries are not caused by landing on the heel – they are caused by OVER striding. I see a lot of runners who’s feet land way in front of their hips (which usually also means that there heel is striking). If your heel strikes the ground first, AND is in front of your hips – you create a natural “braking” and you are jarring your leg all the way from the foot to the hip. The tendency is to blame the heel strike (possibly because of all the marketing by barefoot running advocates), when the real culprit is the over striding.
One of the best run video analysis’s I’ve ever seen is from Ironman 2009 footage. Craig “Crowie” Alexander (one of the greatest triathletes of all time) was overtaking Chris Leito @ mile 21. You can clearly see that both of these runners have a slight heel strike. It is only slight, but the point is, THERE IS A HEEL STRIKE. Craig Alexander ran a 2:48:05 Marathon, and Chris Leito ran a 3:02:35. Also don’t forget that this was AFTER a 112 mile bike ride!
This video is responsible for me abandoning my insane thought of switching to barefoot running. After I watched this video I thought to myself “if shoes are good enough for the best in the world, they are good enough for me.” I also realized, after watching this video, that I had A LOT of running mechanics to work on, but correcting a “heel” strike was not one of them.
If you are suffering knee pain, hip pain, or even heel pain after a run – I would strongly suggest that you watch this video – then take a video of your running. Find the areas that you can improve in. Most likely, you have other running mechanic flaws to correct – and with a little focus and attention to these flaws, your aches and pains will disappear.
Have you had to change your running stride drastically? Feel free to share your story in the comments.