Is there a right way to run?
Sometimes I’m shocked this topic is still debated. There is a right way to run, and it’s pretty simple. You should be running with relatively short, fast strides with your feet landing under your body. You should NOT be running with a slow, plodding stride and landing on your heel well out in front of your body. Here’s a quick graphic:
So why is the dude on the left wrong? Here are some arguments:
1. We only started running like this about 25-30 years ago. Go back and watch any video of runners prior to 1980 or so. NONE ran like the dude on the left. EVERYONE ran like the chick on the right. Did EVERYONE, from the average recreational runner to Olympic champion, do it wrong back in the day?
2. Kids inherently run like the woman on the right. Have kids? Watch them run barefoot. They run like the chick. In fact, they only run like the dude on the left when we place them in chunky shoes with a raised heel. Hmmm… if we are supposed to land on our heel, why don’t kids instinctively do it?
3. The body is not designed to land on the heel. Here’s a little demonstration. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Jump up in the air. While in the air, straighten your legs, lock your knees, and land on your heels. When you land, it hurts like Hell. Now do the same thing except bend your knees and land on the ball of your foot. WHOA! YOUR FEET AND LEGS ACT LIKE SHOCK ABSORBERS!!! Hot damn, it’s almost like your legs were designed to work that way!
4. The braking effect wastes energy. Planting your heel in front of your body momentarily stops momentum, thus requiring a more forceful push-off to regain lost momentum. More on that here.
5. The dude on the left will have horrid balance. The chick on the right will not. Landing on your heel in front of your body places your support well ahead of your center of gravity. Landing on your midfoot under your center of gravity keeps you in control. Don’t believe me? Try this experiment. Run on ice. Use the form like the dude on the left. When you get back from the emergency room from your “slip-and-fall” injury, try running like the chick. You don’t fall. Why? Balance.
6. The heel strike is not supported by science. Never has been. Never will be. I challenge anyone to find a single peer-reviewed published study that supports the premise of landing on the heel as a superior form of running.
7. Good running coaches don’t teach runners to land on their heel. This applies to any level- high school, college, Olympics, whatever. When it comes to maximizing potential, those that understand the practical applications of running form teach a technique that looks like the chick, not the dude.
It’s easy to learn good form. Check out the “barefoot running” link above or try the stuff from Merrell. The same principles apply for running barefoot or running in minimalist shoes. Hell, you can even keep wearing those cushioned marshmallow shoes and still reap some benefits by learning good running form.
There are more reasons, but this is just a start. Have any more to add? Include them in the comments!
Know any heel strikers? Send them this link.
Editor’s note- The term “chick”, as used in this post, is intended to refer to the awesome women that run ultramarathons and is in no way meant to be derogatory. The term is also used by my female friends to describe themselves, as seen here:
Also, note the chick is the one running correctly.