Should I Run Heel-To-Toe or With a Midfoot Strike?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get from #RWM members and Instagram followers.
Anytime I work with a client in-person, I have them run on the treadmill for 3 minutes and I video tape their foot placement from the side and from the back. Then, I assess what is going on, and put the video in slow motion for my client to what they may need to fix. I feel as though having a visual is key in order to understand how to communicate with your muscles and body when you are actually running.
Often times, what I see with my heel-to-toe strikers, is their foot placement landing in front of their hips, as opposed to under them, and as a result they tend to deal with issues like knee pain, shin splints, and stress fractures from the over-striding. I think it feels natural for some athletes to run with a heel-to-toe strike because that’s the way we walk. But when you look at the picture below, you can see how landing on your heels causes: your posture to misalign, it creates more stress on your knees and joints, and you tend to land in front of your center of mass (hips), as opposed to under your hips.
With a midfoot strike, you can see that you aren’t pulling your bodyweight from behind you to move forward, you get full knee extension in your stride cycle, and you are landing directly under your hips.
When you land on your midfoot, you are able to bring your back leg to full extension, increasing efficiency and producing a forward lean. With a midfoot strike, since less of the surface area on the bottom of your foot is striking the ground, you have less shock absorption and you are able to peel through your toes to lean into your stride and to get off the ground quicker.
The best way to start implementing a midfoot strike, is to first work on warm-ups and plyometric movements to activate the muscles necessary to produce this strike, like single leg jumps, calf raises, and jump squats, then, you want to start working on increasing your cadence (number of steps you take per minute) and also work on pointing your toes toward the ground, prior to your foot striking the ground.
Regardless of your foot strike, I will say that the most important part of your stride cycle is to land directly under your hips to alleviate the impact on your knees and shins. You also want to focus on increasing your cadence, which will help put your feet under your center of mass (hips).
Often times, when my clients or members are learning to get rid of their heel-to-toe strike, they tend to deal with calf soreness in the first few weeks, which is totally normal. My recommendation for starting to run with a midfoot strike would be to ease into it, just like you would wean off of something: Start running 2 minutes your way, and maybe that’s heel-to-toe, and 1 minute with a midfoot strike, throughout your runs, to start to form that muscle memory and allow your body to subconsciously crave that correct form more and more, since it’s taking pressure of your bones and joints.
This doesn’t happen overnight!
It takes some time for your body to adjust to new from, and you will definitely feel like you are expending more energy producing this stride cycle, because well, you are! You have to recruit more muscles to produce a midfoot strike. All of this is natural. But over time, you will see that it will help you to eliminate your risk of injury, increase your speed and efficiency, and help you to run further and longer, more comfortably.