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??