Catherina McKiernan: Avoid heel landing or injuries will pile up

by Gazette Reporter

BY Catherina McKiernan

I talk a lot about learning to land mid-foot while running, because I feel it is very important.

I still notice so many people heel-striking. It’s one of those things that I feel I need to keep reminding people about. It’s because heel-striking is causing a lot of unnecessary problems and people are having to stop running due to injuries which could be prevented.
From conducting my running workshops, I meet a lot of people who heel strike. It’s very common. I also meet people who have read about mid-foot landing and try to practise
it but end up exaggerating what they read and start landing on their fore-foot, pushing off from their toes. Heel strike is, of course, when you land on your heel and your foot lands in front of the body.

 When your foot lands in front of your body, it results in a brake or resistance to your forward- running motion. If you are reaching with your legs, and leaning slightly back as you run, you will heel strike and most likely push off the balls of your feet to propel yourself forward.

This is not an efficient way to run and can cause a lot of injuries if done for more than a very short distance. Some of the injuries that this form of running causes include calf strains, shin splints and Achilles tendonitis.

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So it puts a lot of pressure on the lower legs, knees and hips. Forefoot is when you land on the balls of your feet. This overworks the lower leg and ankles and foot and asks a small body part to do a very big repetitive job under tension.
Your feet should be landing underneath your body. Scientific evidence shows that landing mid-foot is far safer than heel-to-toe and results in much-less impact on the body. By mid-foot, I mean letting your whole foot land flat on the ground. Take short, snappy steps rather than long strides.

Running is to be enjoyed, not endured, and there is a way of doing it in an enjoyable and relaxed way. To avoid a heel strike, we keep our feet landing underneath us. This means a shorter stride than what most people are used to. We don’t think of reaching forward with our legs. Dorsiflexing and reaching forward with our legs creates a heel strike.

 I say to people when they are out running: “Shake out your wrists and get the same feeling of relaxation into the ankle joint (front of the ankle).”
This allows us to land mid-foot by keeping our stride short, with our feet landing underneath us while relaxing the front of the ankle. It seems to me that when people go out with
the intention of landing mid-foot, they end up on their forefoot and hold too much tension in the lower legs and ankles. Don’t make yourself land mid-foot. Allow it to happen by following the above principals. All the while think limp, loose lower legs. If you don’t use them, you won’t abuse them.

To book a running workshop or personal class please visit my website

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