One of the most common questions I am asked by runners of all standards is “What part of the foot should I land on?”. This is also the topics of many running articles, theories, advertising campaigns and debates.
My short answer, which surprises 99% of people is..
“It doesn’t matter”
Which part of the foot touches the ground first is not a reflection of good technique. It is entirely possible – and unfortunately quite common, for people to land on the ‘right’ part of the foot and still have poor technique or be creating injury inducing stresses or loads. The most common of these are people that focus on landing on the toes or front forefoot. It is quite easy to land on this part of the foot with zero knee lift and be essentially jamming the foot into the ground. Watch the last couple of km of Dennis Kimetto’s WR marathon, and at least some of the time you would say he’s almost heel striking.
Yet the runner thinks they are running correctly ’cause they are landing on their toes’. Blisters around the ball of the foot or bruised toes are normally a give away as the foot ‘brakes’ into the ground moving in the shoes against the direction of travel – and constantly applying brakes in a run is never a good thing for your body or run time.
The long answer to the question “Which part of the foot I should land on?” is that if the rest of the mechanics of the run are correct then your foot really has no choice about where it lands. Good knee lift (note the word ‘lift’ – not push), good extension through through the hips, square chest with lack of shoulder twisting etc means that the foot will typically land around the mid foot. Try running like this (focussing on knee, hips etc) and try to land on your heels – it is virtually impossible.
I encourage running on the spot to focus on the correct technique and striking directly under the hips.
So, rather than focus on the foot strike spend your time analysing the main area of your run technique – knee, chest and hip position and your foot strike will quite literally fall into place.
By the way – for the triathletes. What I have found is that when technique is correct, the part of the foot that hits the ground is exactly the same as the position of the pedal axle when a bike fit is correctly performed.
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