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Heel Strike or Ball of the Foot?

by Neil
(Birmingham (UK ))

Hello again !
So many questions, hope your not too busy.
When I first started running, I remember reading that heel striking was good form, and this allowed your foot to roll naturally etc, etc.

However, I have since read articles contradicting this advise suggesting that a mid foot / ball of foot landing sends less reaction to the upper body preventing injury.

I had tried to modify my form to heel strike and now I read this.... confused ? ! ?

Please help.

Neil (UK)

barefoot running shoes

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Neil,
Thx for your running training question. I should start charging for this service (no worries, I won't)...

It's a great debate isn't: what is better, ball of the foot landing or heel strike?

Another good one is about whether cross-training is good for you or not. Everyone seems to have an opinion.

Traditionally, running shoes were not as padded as they are currently. When people were running, they'd run like they'd run barefoot, i.e. landing on the ball of their feet.

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When running shoes got modified, suddenly people started changing into heel strikers. And for a long time it was believed that heel striking was The Way to Run.

However, following the popularity of Born to Run (Book Review in link), natural running is making a big comeback.

Suddenly, natural running and Bare foot running shoes are popular.

So, what to do?

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Do what makes you feel best, do what comes naturally to you and that is probably the right running technique for you.

I don't necessarily think, unlike others, that you should do everything you can to completely overhaul your running technique.

Working on your running technique though is important, and I would advise you to do exercises to improve your running cadence, every week.

Just make a habit of it to run with a metronome for 10-15 minutes in one of your weekly runs. Over time it will help you become lighter on your feet and who knows, you may find that your technique becomes more fluid as well.... :)

Hope this helps.

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Comments for Heel Strike or Ball of the Foot?

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Sep 01, 2009
Don't Heelstrike (please)
by: Anonymous

Actually, a midfoot/forefoot strike is the way humans are designed to run. If you take off your shoes and go for a run you will find it impossible to heelstrike. if you use your legs and feet the way they were designed they will reduce the force of the impacts far more effectively than any shoe that has ever been designed. Again, humans are natural runners, and the notion that we must by expensive shoes in order to run has been propagated by shoe companies to sell more shoes.

May 15, 2010
"Natural" running on "unnatural" surfaces?
by: I. Viola

I understand the argument that humans are natural runners, and that running shoes are a modern invention. But so is pavement. I would think that running barefoot on bare ground, grass, or sand might be the ideal, but running on asphalt or cement without some added shock absorber doesn't make any sense to me. What is the current thought on this?

The argument that the running shoe industry is just in place to hose us is an argument that could be made for all non-essential consumer goods. I would urge us to take pause and consider which sporting equipment (paddles, life preservers, sails for boats, balls for games, visors and eye protection for various sports, bicycles, wetsuits, baseball bats, gloves, rock climbing equipment, helmets, pick your sport and the list goes on...) may give us a more efficient, safer, or more enjoyable way to exercise and move our bodies than the "natural" forms we were born with.

I would also argue that technological innovations are "natural" responses to our desire to expand our ability to move over terrain, through the water, and against or with the wind. I agree that there is a lot of junk out there, and plenty of folks just trying to make a buck, but we shouldn't throw the good equipment/accessories out with the bad.

May 17, 2010
Interesting Point of View...
by: Dominique (webmaster)

Hi I. Viola,
I liked your post very much.
Sounds like you have given the issue some good thought.

Barefoot running has become really popular, especially since Born to Run was published and became a bit of a bestseller. The writer provides quite a compelling argument for barefoot running, but I agree, running surfaces today are not what they used to be thousands of years ago.

The jury is still out on what is right and what is wrong I guess.
I like the current line of Newton running shoes, see Newton Running Shoes.

Through their design, these shoes make you gravitate towards ball-of-the-foot running, however still with providing you the protection of running shoes.

The Vibram Five Fingers, basically a "glove for your feet" are a real hit and I have seen people run with them in street races. They look cool, but don't offer a hell of a lot of protection it seems. I wonder about the longer term effects on people's feet or about incidents with sharp objects etc.

Then again, the whole argument for barefoot running is that our feet are strong enough themselves and don't need any protection.

Tough, tough, tough, I will see if I can get in contact with the Newton running company and throw some questions their way regarding this issue, I find it very interesting!
Dominique (webmaster)

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