Runners, How Should Your Foot Strike the Ground?

Over-pronation, under-pronation, over striding, foot strike: chances are if you’re a runner, you’ve heard these terms before.  Few runners really think about the way their foot hits the ground–they just RUN.  Yet, the way in which your foot hits the ground can make a difference between an injury-prone race season, and a successful racing season.  How should your foot hit the ground?

Proper running form

Proper running form is an upright posture with a slight tilt forward (to draw the extra stress off your feet), and an arm swing close to the body at about 90 degrees.  The shoulders move in full motion to aid in the forward momentum. Land on the balls of the feet with the hips directly over the feet hitting the ground lightly.  Stomping with each foot strike puts excess stress on your knees and hips.  Your butt and hamstrings should provide the brunt of the force that propels you forward–essentially, your butt and hamstrings are what power your entire gait.

Runners, How Should Your Foot Strike the Ground-

What is a foot strike?

When it comes to foot strikes, there are two main types. Rearfoot strikes (heel first), or mid-sole foot strikes (ball of the foot first).  The mid-sole foot strike improves shock absorption throughout the entire body and decreases the potential for injury. However, this foot strike isn’t what most recreational runners use.  Most recreational runners who run for recreation and not on a competitive, or highly competitive racing circuit hit the ground heel first.  The world’s fastest runners tend to choose a mid-foot strike, and they tend to be in perfect athletic condition. Flat-footed runners who make the change from a heel strike to a mid-footed strike are the ones that end up with more running-related injuries and strains.

Runners, How Should Your Foot Strike the Ground-

The mechanics of the foot strike

The runners who strike with their forefeet absorb more overall impact at the ankle and less at the knee.  Whereas those who strike with their heels tend to absorb more impact at the knee and less at the ankle.  Most important, is that the point that as to heel or mid-foot strike doesn’t affect the overall force of impact of the running gait, it just transfers that impact and force to other joints and muscles.  Midfoot strikers absorb the impact mainly at the arches and the calves, whereas the heel strikers are absorbing the impact almost solely at the knee.

Runners, How Should Your Foot Strike the Ground-

From the research on proper running foot strike, it’s evident that a mid-foot strike is the most efficient and the least likely to result in an overuse injury.  Yet, it’s important to note that runners should be cautious if they choose to make the biomechanical change to a mid-foot strike.  If you lack the hip extension and try to force a more forefoot strike, your chances for injury from over striding and overexertion are much higher. The decision to alter your running form should be made cautiously and with the assistance of a coach or Kinesiology professional.

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2 Replies to “Runners, How Should Your Foot Strike the Ground?”

  1. Such helpful information, especially for us flat footed runners! Thank you 🙂

  2. Good tips. I suffer an injury at least once a year from poor form. I never learn 🙁

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