Friday, 1 November 2013

Heel versus Forefoot Striker

When I first started running, I simply put my sneakers on and walked out the door.  As I began to increase my distance and pace, I noticed increasing knee pain that started to hinder my running.  I started to read up on the different types of running form and determined I was a classic heel striker.

What does this mean you ask?  If you think about it, as you run, if you place your heel first, you slow yourself down by 'putting the brakes on' so-to-speak. Your foot and lower leg come to a dead stop while the rest of your upper body continues to move forward. The heel strike causes a large impact force that flows up the skeletal system.
As I read up on the alternative, the forefoot striking method, it was suggested that I switch to a minimalist type of running shoe.  The thought of running forefoot was not foreign to me as being a gymnast we often used our toes for push off on floor and vault.  The solution?  I bought a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers that forced me to slow down and use a lighter cadence.
The key to moving to a forefoot strike is to take your time and build up easily.  You are retraining your body to run and your calf muscles will remind you of this.  Why a forefoot strike you ask?  Even though the foot comes to a dead stop, the heel and lower leg continue to fall, thus reducing the impact on the body by 7 times that of a heel striker.  You can also see in the picture below that the body is in a forward motion, allowing the body to let gravity do some of the work.
I have been very fortunate that switching my form has decreased some of the pain I used to feel.  (I have since learnt that my ITB causes me pain no matter what I do).  I do have to consider the forefoot strike when I buy sneakers as I need a minimal heel to toe drop or else I revert back to heel striking!!!
There are lots of proponents and articles out there for heel or forefoot striking.  If you are a heel striker and are thinking of switching, please take the time and read up on the benefits and the proper way to do transition.
Are you a heel or forefoot striker???
Do you notice your running form or do you just run, to run??

No comments:

Post a Comment