Does Foot Position Matter?
Should you land on your heel or your forefoot when running and how is over striding related?
This has been a topic of debate throughout the running world forever. Let’s start by defining the foot strike positions:
Heel strike – when the heel makes contact with the ground first.
Midfoot strike – when the mid part of your foot from the arch to the balls of your feet hits first.
Forefoot strike – when you land on the balls of your feet, think running on your tiptoes.
Why do professional runners, many medical professionals, and most of the running community believe that a forefoot or mid-foot strike is more efficient and causes less injury than heel striking?
The reason is less to do with which part of the foot hits the ground first and more to do with where the foot is landing in relation to the center of gravity. Heel striking more commonly results in over striding. This is when the foot strikes the ground in front of the center of gravity. The common thought is that if I change to a forefoot or mid foot strike then I will land under the center of my body. Although this is the right line of thinking, I find most just point their toes and still over stride.
The real question should be, how to avoid over striding, not what part of my foot is hitting the ground first.
To avoid over striding think about how your foot is getting to the ground. After your knee drives forward your ankle is going to swing forward and then you want to pull the foot back underneath your body. Many runner’s will reach the foot out in front of their body regardless of which foot strike pattern they are using. The common reason for over striding is not pulling your foot back underneath the body, not whether or not you try to land on your heel or your forefoot. Commonly as you pull your leg back underneath your body you will tend to land on your forefoot or mid foot, but you can land on your heel too. Other variables such as terrain and speed can affect where you land on your feet, but you should always have the intent of pulling your leg and foot back under your body.
What do I do to work on pulling my foot underneath the center of my body?
Running drills are a great way to improve this skill. These drills are not just for the “fast” runners. They are probably most important for beginner runners. Running is a skill and to do it well you must practice to become better. Runners are often afraid to start doing running drills because they feel silly and uncoordinated. This is exactly the reason to do them. If you were already perfectly coordinated and able to do the drill exactly the right way, there would be no need to do the drill. Think of swinging a golf club. It might be pretty uncoordinated at first, but as you practice the skill of swinging the club your movement becomes more coordinated. This will happen if you practice doing the running drills too.
The B-skip running drills work specifically on pulling the foot underneath your body. Here are a few progressions of the B-skip starting with the easiest and increasing in difficulty and coordination.
Perform each drill for about 15-20 meters. Start slow and increase speed as you become more comfortable with the drill. Only move on to the next drill when you feel you have mastered the current drill. These are great to do as part of your pre-run warm up.
1. Stationary B-skip
2. Marching B-skip
3. March & skip B-skip
4. B-skip on 2 feet
5. B-skip on one foot