When it comes to feet, rarely do they do as much work as when we run. In fact, running and walking are some of the most complicated neurological actions we ever do!
Every time you contract a muscle another muscle needs to change in function to stabilize the original muscle. Some muscles will turn on others will turn off. This rhythmic pattern to muscle function as we walk and run can become a major problem for many people. Small imbalances can become pronounced as we repetitively strike the ground.
There is early growing evidence suggesting that forefoot or midfoot running is more efficient and safer than heel striking. Most people land on their heels when they run. This causes a large impact on your hip and knee as those joints take the pressure rather than impact being absorbed by our muscles.
This is often compounded by people wearing thick shock absorbing shoes that fail to allow the foot to feel the ground.
When we heel strike many people will have their pelvis swing laterally and ilio-tibial band (ITB) stretch, increasing the pressure through the knee joint. This movement can potentially increase the chance of injuries to hips, knees and ankles.
Not only does heel striking increase that chance of injury, it is can also be inefficient! Research suggests that the lower the shock absorption under the feet, the better the aerobic performance. In other words, your body fatigues more when you land on you heels as the shock is greater.
From a performance perspective forefoot or
midfoot running can remove a lot of the gravitational forces heel strikers are
exposed to. We’ve observed runners who tend to heel strike tend to bounce more
when they land due to the lower pelvic position. This creates a need to lift
the body over the front foot as the runner approaches mid stance. This action
requires an extra amount of energy to be used with each stride.
Also, a heel strike movement creates a braking force and removes the nice forward flow created when forefoot or midfoot running. This occurs because their heel contacts the ground in front of their center of gravity which slows them down. In contrast, forefoot running causes the lateral aspect of the forefoot to touch the ground and then roll onto the heel.
Learning how to change years of running technique can be difficult and we often need guidance to safely accomplish. However, we have observed that people who run barefoot tend to naturally land on the forefoot, as landing on your heels is painful. Have a look at this short video just to get an idea of what it looks like.
Correcting running technique and fixing minor imbalances that can lead to muscle imbalances can help many people enjoy many pain free years of running. Whilst professional guidance is always recommended understanding good technique is step one to a happier running existence.
Note: Forefoot running does not mean running on your toes! Do not run on your toes. Running on your toes for extended periods of time can result in strains to various muscles and tendons.