Proper Running Technique: Forefoot Step or Heel Foot?

Proper Running Technique: Forefoot Step or Heel Foot?

What is the proper running technique? A simple question, to which you would think there is a simple answer. The question has been answered many times. Unfortunately each time the answer is a little different. So the question’s status has remained unsettled. There are a few different factors that we need to take into account to make sure we get the right answer: ergonomics, the specific type of running, and shoes and gear. Hopefully this post clears things up.

The feet are the center of concern when running. The most ergonomically correct way to run is obvious.  Just take of your shoes and try running.  You will undoubtedly run with a forefoot strike, meaning that the front of the foot connects with the ground before the heel.

Proper Running Technique: Forefoot Strike?

The forefoot strike allows you to absorb the impact of each step with the muscles throughout your leg, rather than taking it all on the heel and joints.  This does two things: first is strengthens the muscles in your legs, and second it saves your knees from excessive stress.  The downside to this method of running is it is more tiring.

Looking at the different types of running simplifies the question a little. With quick sprints every pro runner will use a forefoot strike. The reason is because this helps to propel them forward. Landing on your heel puts resistance against the forward motion of your run and this will slow you down. Another thing: All that pressure from the resistance of your landing will be absorbed in your knees and joints.

With long distance runs the answer is not so simple because running on your toes is more tiring. People sometimes say that running with a heel foot strike will serve you better by keeping you more energized throughout the run.  However the problem is that it can cause some real damage to the joints and knees.  Many runners retire with sore knees and poor joints, and this is due to the fact that their knees have taken a pounding from all the running they have been doing. You can alleviate this stress by running on your toes.

Proper Running Technique: Heel Foot Running?

With the advent of “specially” designed shoes, running on the heel became OK, because the pads of the shoe would save your foot from the impact.  For a short period of time coaches advocated heel foot running as the “correct” way to run.  However, this decision was made in ignorance to overall health.  It was purely thought to be better because it was easier.

Now so all evidence supports a forefoot strike, but why don’t we do that when we walk.  When running or jogging, the accelerated rate puts a lot of pressure on the legs. With each step against the earth there is an equal and opposite pressure that comes against the leg. When walking you maintain a constant flow of motion, like a smooth rolling motion. This doesn’t happen when you run, there is too much of an up and down motion.

So if you are running to improve overall health then it just makes sense to develop a forefoot running strike, even if it is a little bit weird to get used to at first.

Proper Running Technique: Forefoot Step or Heel Foot?
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