So you decide to take up barefoot or minimalist shoe running. One of the first issues you encounter is foot strike how should your foot interact with the ground?
You scour the Interwez for advice. You read the books. You watch the videos. You get a million opinions.
Some tell you to “run on your toes.”
Some tell you to land on the ball of your foot.
Some say ball-toes-heel.
And so on.
So what should you do?
My best advice- aim to land pancake flat.
It’s an idea I
stole borrowed from my friend Jon Sanregret. We’ve been using it in our clinics for some time.
Here’s the rationale:
I tend to agree with Steve Mangress, initial contact should be made with the outside edge of the foot. This minimizes impact forces and begins the process of elastic energy storage as the rest of the foot, including the heel, comes in contact with the ground. Weight is fully transferred to the support leg. As your weight passes over the foot, the hips are used to propel you forward. The foot naturally comes off the ground as a result of the passive inertia of the hip action.
The problem- it’s difficult to consciously think of the foot landing and execute it properly. The more people tend to focus on foot strike, the more other elements of better form suffer.
The solution- use the simple cue of landing pancake-flat.
I’ve filmed several runners using this cue. Guess what? When they try to land flat-footed, they don’t. They land on the lateral edge of the ball of their foot, then the rest of the foot immediately follows. In other words, they land exactly as they should to minimize initial impact forces and maximize elastic recoil.
Of course, foot strike is just one element of better running form, as Pete Larson and Bill Katovsky discuss in this article (and in their great book “Tread Lightly“). Other elements, like posture and stride length, are also important.
If you’re having some trouble mastering foot strike, give the “pancake-flat” learning cue a try!