Mastering foot strike is one of the most difficult tasks some barefoot/minimalist shoe runners attempt. Maybe you’ve been a long-time heel striker and want to move to more of a midfoot strike. Or perhaps you’ve been a sprinter and can’t shake the habit of “running on your toes.” Either way, changing foot strike can be exceedingly difficult.
In my Merrell Bareform clinics, I teach people to land with their feet pancake flat (thanks to Jon Sanregret for the idea). It works like a charm- almost everyone that tries it ends up landing midfoot first, then almost immediately allow their toes and heel to touch. Many believe this pattern fully engages the arches of the foot to maximize the elastic nature of our body.
So what if that cue doesn’t work?
I’ve often recommended this somewhat silly (but effective) trick- duct tape kitty litter in the inside of your shoe.
The duct tape-over-kitty litter provides a little bit of tactile sensation that’s fairly unpleasant. This tactile feedback will force you to alter your stride. If done for a few weeks, you’ll start developing the muscle memory for the new gait instead of the gait you previously used.
So how exactly does it work?
If you’re a heel striker, cut a 2″ piece of duct tape. Apply kitty litter (or fine gravel) to a 1″ circle on the sticky side in the middle of the duct tape. Apply the duct tape to the inside of the shoe where your heel touches the insole. When you wear the shoe, you should feel a slight “poking” sensation.
If you’re a “run on your toes” runner, cut two 3″ pieces of duct tape, then stick them together along the longest edge with a 1/4″ overlap. Apply a 1 X 2″ oval of kitty litter on the sticky side. Apply the duct tape to the inside of the shoe where the ball of your foot touches the insole. When you wear the shoe, you should feel a slight poking on the ball of your foot.
Since there’s a possibility of injury with the funky cat litter shoes, I recommend keeping the distance VERY short. Try running 100-200 meters at a time. The tactile feedback should be enough to alter your foot strike pattern. If you repeat this daily for a week or two, the new foot strike pattern should begin to feel normal.
[Edit- some have asked about barefoot running… the same concept applies, just find a really rough surface. I recommend new chip-and-deal asphalt. ]