Correcting Common Problems - Foot Strike

Been asked a few times of late about trying to run on your toes all the time and whether it's the answer to better running. Simply, from a biomechanics perspective, no.


The acceleration power comes to a healthy degree from the arch generated with the arms, not the toes so it makes sense that you engage the whole foot when you run rather than employing part of it. Coupled with that there are 26 bones and over 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons tying into the foot and it's primary role is to cushion the skeletal system and adapt to uneven surfaces. With that in mind, why would you think heel striking or forefoot running was good?


Heel striking causes a reactionary force as your centre of gravity is way out in front of your body. This forces the impact through the heel which then travels up the shin from the heel, through the knee, jamming your hip likely leading to imbalance and injury. It is terribly inefficient, and we call this a breaking force as it really is a risk for injury and a lot of pain. I see it a lot.


For me, the correct way to land is slightly forward of your centre of mass with a slight forward lean, landing more on your mid foot so your foot is landing more flat as you were, not on your heels, not on your toes either, keeping the landing foot more towards underneath the body as you land.


Some coaches will tell you that key to this is for you to take over 170 to 180 steps per minute. It isn’t. It’s a number of things but increasing your footfall and shortening your stride won’t make you a better runner just like only focusing in on your VO2 max won't make you a better runner either. You need to bring a number of things together and stop obsessing with what is in your eyes, a magic element.


If you’re running faster speeds your step rate may go up slightly but even at slower speeds your stride rate may well be high if you practice with a metronome and get your body used to developing its own rhythm. What is key is that you are light on your feet and your contact time with the ground is as little as possible. This will reduce the impact force and increase your efficiency. The less time you spend on the ground in the most stable position possible, the less chance you have of getting injured.


So what's the answer if not to run on your toes? Quite simply it is running economy.


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