Running Form – Let’s Talk about Heel Striking!

Running form is one of those infamous things in running that is so important, yet so hard to get right! Running form can be a major make or break for a new runner. Having good form leads to gradual progress with a lower chance for injury. Having poor form leads to aches and pains, having to over-exert yourself, and sooner or later, injuries.

I have been running for over 6 years and getting my form right has been a journey. When I first started running, I can definitely say my form was inefficient and all over the place! At the time, I didn’t really have a clue and just went out and did what I loved in a way that felt natural. Now I have learned how important it is to teach yourself to improve your stride for your own health and safety!

When I first started running, I was a classic heel-striker. Heel striking means that when you spring forward and land during a run, all of your weight lands on your heel. This can lead to shin splints and other issues. Heel striking is a common issue for a lot of new runners because when you think about how we walk, most people put their weight on their heels as they step forward. That’s why it’s a process to teach ourselves that running isn’t just a faster version of walking, it’s a different process altogether. It took me a long time to work through the heel-striking and eventually give it up for good. Now, I focus on landing on my mid-foot. NOT on my heel. I have noticed that this has made my natural pace much faster and more comfortable (after I adjusted to it).

Heel striking vs. landing on your mid-foot

During my RRCA Run Coach Certification Training, our instructor had us practice an exercise which I thought was really helpful to prevent heel-striking. He said “I want you to stand tall and jump up and down in place and land on your heels” We all did this and it felt awkward, stiff, and a little painful. Then he said “Now I want you to stand tall and jump up and down in place and land on the ball of your feet” We all did this and it felt light, easier, and took much less effort to get much more “bounce”. This was an exercise to show that the way you land your weight during a run matters, and landing on the ball of your foot is much more efficient to spring you forward than landing on your heel. Running is like jumping forward. You wouldn’t land on your heel when you jump because it would hurt. So why land on your heel when you run?

If you think you are a heel striker, I challenge you to try to pay attention to landing on the balls of your feet instead, and see if it makes a difference! Also, be sure to change your stride gradually. Your body will need time to adjust to using new muscles in new ways, just like when you first started running.

Are you a heel striker? Have you overcome a running obstacle or changed your stride for the better? Share it with us in the comments below!

Want to work with me? Reach out to me at lauren@runningforwellness.com.

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Happy Running!

-Coach Lauren

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