Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: An Obervation on the Heel Strike

Ask any barefoot runner how they land on their foot, or at least intend to land on their foot. I'm sure all of them will respond that they land on their forefoot or midfoot.

Shod running and heel striking typically go hand-in-hand in the barefoot runner's mind. I see the heel strike in two forms, a heel-strike and a heel-off. A heel-strike in my mind is when the foot lands far out in front of the body with the leg straight or barely bent. In my opinion, this is bad and damaging to the runner.

The heel-off is a little different though. The heel-off is when the shod-runner is using good form and landing below their body, but the heel is clipping the ground first.

Let's watch Barefoot Ken Bob's treadmill video as an example.

It is pretty clear that he is landing on his midfoot/barely-forefoot, and planting the rest of his foot later. His feet are extremely close to the ground when he swings his foot through. This is great!

But imagine if Ken Bob was wearing a shoe with an elevated heel. His heel would clip on the ground, causing a heel-off. This is different than a heel strike. It also makes sense that it would impact efficiency much less due to the good form still in place. The runner is trying to land midfoot, but the heel impedes their gait.

Which is more efficient? A heel-off or a barefoot/non-elevated-heel mid-foot strike? I would have to say a barefoot mid-foot strike. Of many reasons, the one that comes to mind first is the fact that during a heel-off the heel clips the ground and causes friction in a much higher force than that of a barefoot mid-foot strike.

This is just one of the many things I observe when running with shod friends.

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