Landing and foot position – Let’s be more specific!
We have spoken about this previously. But let’s dive into the specifics of the midfoot and heel strike landings. Both are great! But what are the potential drawbacks of each when looking after your body?
Let’s look at the difference between the heel strike and midfoot landing positions. Can you change what you are? Which is better for running and how does it affect the rest of your gate.
- Which is better?
- Heel Strike
- Midfoot strike
Let’s have a look at both types of strikes, the pros and cons, and what can you change?
Which is better?
At a recreational level of running neither type of strike is better. At the end of the day, the faster you run over a distance, the more your foot strike will progress to a flatter or midfoot type landing. However, I mean fast. Many people are heel strikers, many are midfoot, and before a professional level, it does not matter. What matters is are you improving as a runner? And how is your body standing up? It has a stigma – but it shouldn’t. Your foot landing is the last thing you should be worried about as a runner. It is the end product of your leg cycle, and the more efficient your leg cycle, the more efficient your landing will become. Shift your focus to the muscle groups that do all the work, and let the foot take care of itself.
Landing on your heel as the first point of contact in your stride. The heel hits the ground and with the help of modern running showers produces a rocking motion through the midfoot before enabling a push off from the toes. It is common and a fine way to run. The risk of injuries can increase if you have a significant overstride – landing in front of the centre of mass. This can increase strain on the body by up to six times body weight or more. Ankle, knee or hip injuries can occur with an overstride like this, and the ankle takes far more force. If you get your landing underneath your centre of gravity, this will not be a problem. What’s important is that thinking about your foot won’t change this, making improvements around the knee and hip will!
Landing around the centre of the foot as a strong and solid block before transitioning into a push-off. This can reduce the contact time with the ground and in theory make you a faster runner. Here is the thing though – plenty of slow runners will transition to a midfoot strike, have you heard them? You often hear the slap on their landing. If you are not experienced and fast, this puts significant stress on your midfoot and lower limb. A tendency to then run on your forefoot leaves you at risk of stress fractures, a calf injury and tendon injury. This is because instead of changing and increasing the speed and size of the leg cycle, people use their calves to point their toes to avoid landing on the heel. Transitioning is a possible but slow process which has a few risks.
If you are a natural heel striker, you can transition to midfoot strikes. It is more efficient at a high level. This takes time! And you should consult a running coach prior to starting. This is purely due to the injury risk associated with it. Give yourself a two year period. Allow your soft tissues to adapt to the change in load with a different landing position. Take it to step by step, lamppost runs, 30/30 skill practice to rest ratio – all the things we do with running technique training. Better yet – perfect your leg cycle! Forget your foot, get all the working muscles above doing the right thing, and the foot biomechanics will take care of itself.
- Both styles are great – at the top level, most runners will strike midfoot.
- Heel striking has injury risk if you overstride – it can put significant stress on your joints.
- Midfoot striking is more efficient in the long term but has its own injury risks if you don’t do it naturally.
- You can change your strike but it takes time to adapt.
- Focus on your leg cycle – the feet will then take care of themselves.