If you hit the ground with your heel first when running, you're a heel striker. You may have heard that's a bad thing, but don't rush to change your running pattern just yet.
Photo by Chris Hunkeler
Although we usually switch to a forefoot (tiptoe) or midfoot strike when sprinting, most runners settle into a heel strike for slower and longer distance running. Research has shown that the few runners who use a midfoot strike for distance are less prone to injury, but Dr Thomas Michaud at Competitor points out that the midfoot runners in that famous study were people who naturally chose a midfoot strike. If you already use a heel strike, forcing yourself to change to a midfoot strike may not help.
Each type of foot strike has pros and cons. Michaud writes:
Because midfoot strike patterns significantly reduce stress on the knee, they should be considered for all runners suffering with recurrent knee pain. This is especially true for faster runners with wide forefeet and flexible Achilles tendons. Conversely, runners with a history of Achilles, forefoot, and/or plantar fascial injuries should almost always make initial contact along the outside of the heel, because contrary to what many running experts say, striking the ground heel first is safe and efficient. The ninety-five per cent of runners who naturally select a heel-first strike pattern can't all be wrong.
Read the full article at Competitor for more about the research on foot strike patterns and the pros and cons of each type.
Is It Harmful to Heel Strike When Running? [Competitor]