Changing foot ‘strike’

By Keith Bateman

You will probably be surprised to hear me say ‘forget about foot strike’.

Foot strike is a poor indicator

The way your foot initially contacts the ground can be a guide to how you are running – for instance, if your heel touches first you will be leaning back and braking (over-striding) to some degree. But you can also easily over-stride with a forefoot or midfoot strike. In no way do any of them indicate good or bad form in themselves..

Changing foot strike keeps the same basic faults

Most people who consciously try to forefoot strike still over-stride – they merely point their foot and land on the forefoot. So, just like cadence, vertical oscillation, foot height and so on, the initial contact point of the foot is not a good indicator of how you are running.

Copying of other runner will mislead

Trying to copy the foot ‘strike’ of good runners is problematic – they might look as if they are about to heel strike as they come into land, or they might even brush their heel on the ground but if they are travelling fast (way faster than us) then they are probably not pushing against their direction of travel because their hips will be over their foot very quickly. Therefore, copying what they are doing at high speed will not translate to good technique at a lower speed.

Landings vary with speed, terrain and footwear

A single image is not conclusive. For instance, I land differently every landing and like most people my feet and legs are not symmetrical. Maybe I land off balance a little forwards, a little back, slightly over supinated (foot tipped outwards), slightly over pronated (foot tipped inwards). It depends on the softness of the ground, how flat it is, my speed and what I have on my feet. On average, I land near-vertically aligned giving me minimum braking and maximum spring off the ground.

Forget about foot strike

When I help clients change technique I do not mention foot strike – in fact there is no ‘operation’ of the feet – no lifting, no placing – nothing at all. I show my clients how to land balanced – as close to being vertically aligned as possible. That means, at constant speed, they are not leaning back when they have fully landed. We use the feeling of the landing to decide how balanced it was, and use a few simple tricks to constantly adjust balance during our runs, until it becomes habitual. We go by feel, not formulas

It’s a very simple process to learn this, requiring just a few simple cues, and as soon as clients consistently achieve balanced landings their technique looks the same. Most clients and readers get the idea in 15 to 20 minutes and from there it’s just a matter of refinement and strengthening in areas which were previously under used such as calf muscles, glutes and core.