When you want to run effectively, there are many things you need to take into consideration. How your foot meets with the floor is one of the factors to consider.
For every step you take during your run, a single foot carries the weight of your entire body. Not only that, but it also lifts it and propels it forward ready for the next foot to take its turn. For this very reason, it is essential to make sure your footwork is as efficient as it possibly can be.
Most runners will strike the ground with their heel first, swiftly followed by the toes. The impact of the heel against the ground, then flows up the shins, to the knee, making each step a jar. The motion of the heel strike is like that of a car braking. For every heel strike, the impact of a brake, travels up the lower half of the leg. This punishes knees with every step.
How many steps does the average runner take on a 5K run?
UK Fitness Events estimate the distance of a 5K to be around 6,250 steps. So imagine driving 5k and putting your foot on the brake pedal 6,250 times. Your braking system will be shot by the end of it! The point to this analogy is that you wouldn’t brake 6,250 times in 5K in your car, because you don’t want to break your vehicle. Now, apply this to your legs!
So, what is the most efficient way to strike when you run?
Much debate goes on in the running community as to which foot strike is optimum. Spoiler alert!! Heel striking is not the lead on this. However, the vast majority of us do heel strike and so if this is not the recommended way. What is?
There are two other recognised foot strikes, the mid-foot and the fore-foot strike. Generally speaking, the mid-foot covers all of the upper half of your foot. However, when we are talking about the “strike” we are actually referring to striking the ground with the mid-foot and heel at the same time. Effectively a level foot that has TWO impact areas and not ONE. As the foot strikes the ground, the whole foot rises up and forward, the knee is bent, and the body is “falling” forward. This means only the legs are supporting the strike and are not involved in the propulsion required to move forward at speed. This form is both energy efficient and it helps to prevent common injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee injuries and IT bands problems, to name a few.
The latter form, fore-foot strikes, is similar in that of the mid-foot strike, in that the mid-foot lands, but not the heel. It would be akin to running in court shoes (1-inch heels), so in your flat trainers, your heel never strikes the ground. You are “toeing off” on every strike. Fore-foot is a preferred strike for those looking at increasing their speed and less so for those looking at endurance. This form of running is regularly the choice of elite runners looking to break world records. However, it takes years of training and conditioning and doesn’t come without its injuries such as: pulling of the foot tendons, calves and Achilles.
How can you change your foot strike?
It takes time to adjust your foot strike, but it IS DO-ABLE! Spend some time concentrating on how your foot lands the next time you are out on a short run. Are you a heel striker? If so, think about your midfoot. Mind-to-Muscle is key. If your brain tells your body to do something, it will – so spending some time on this would be beneficial. DO NOT be defeated! It does take time to re-learn your foot strikes, but the benefits hugely outweigh the cons. Being an injured runner is no fun at all, especially if it something you can start preventing from your next run! Even more so if you are new to running. Learn the most efficient way at the beginning of your running journey and dodge all those painful (and preventable!) injuries.
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