Myth Busting Part 2 - Heel Striking Is Bad!

There are several running technique myths but the one I hear most regularly relates to foot strike. There seems to be a belief amongst some runners (probably due to footwear marketing) that forefoot and midfoot striking is inherently good and heel striking is bad. However, it really isn't as simple as that.

To briefly define the terms above, forefoot running is when the ball of the foot lands first before bringing down the heel, whereas midfoot is when the ball and heel of the foot make contact with the ground simultaneously. Heel striking as the term suggests is when the heel of the foot is the first part to connect with the floor.

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Regardless of which type of runner you are, the most important thing is WHERE you land. The goal is to land as close to underneath your body as possible. This will not only decrease your chances of injury but it will also encourage you to run faster and more efficiently. Take a look at the image above. I would much rather an athlete had a gentle heel strike whilst landing close to their centre of mass (bottom still), than landing with a forefoot strike way out in front of them (top still).

The key to landing underneath the body is cadence. A higher stride rate will encourage you to shorten your stride and this can be practiced whenever you run. For more information on cadence, why it's so important and how to increase it, you can read one of our previous articles here.

To conclude, I'd advise that you ignore this myth that heel striking is bad whereas forefoot/midfoot is good, and pay more attention to where you're landing rather than how you're landing. If we look at professional runners, some land on the balls of their feet whilst others on the heel, but the thing they all have in common is that they endeavour to strike as close to underneath their body as possible. This is not something we should leave to the pros, this is a key ingredient we should all aim for.

By Marc Brown