heelstrike

—a study conducted of elite runners in a 2004 HM race in Japan (75% were heel strikers and only 1% were forefoot strikers) and they try to relate the findings to sub-elite runners.

—there is “no evidence that heel strikers are more injury prone” than midfoot strikers, but consciously altering footstrike does increase the risk of injury.

—there is “no evidence that midfoot runners are faster or perfrom better than heel-strikers”, but consciously altering running mechanics reduces running economy.

—footstrike moves naturally from heel to midfoot to forefoot as you run faster.

—where your feet land relative to your body is more important than how it lands.

EFFECTS OF FOREFOOT RUNNING ON CHRONIC EXERTIONAL COMPARTMENT SYNDROME: A CASE SERIES.

INTRODUCTION:

Chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) is a condition that occurs almost exclusively with running whereby exercise increases intramuscular pressure compromising circulation, prohibiting muscular function, and causing pain in the lower leg. Currently, a lack of evidence exists for the effective conservative management of CECS. Altering running mechanics by adopting forefoot running as opposed to heel striking may assist in the treatment of CECS, specifically with anterior compartment symptoms.

CASE DESCRIPTION:

The purpose of this case series is to describe the outcomes for subjects with CECS through a systematic conservative treatment model focused on forefoot running. Subject one was a 21 y/o female with a 4 year history of CECS and subject two was a 21 y/o male, 7 months status-post two-compartment right leg fasciotomy with a return of symptoms and a new onset of symptoms on the contralateral side.

OUTCOME:

Both subjects modified their running technique over a period of six weeks. Kinematic and kinetic analysis revealed increased step rate while step length, impulse, and peak vertical ground reaction forces decreased. In addition, leg intracompartmental pressures decreased from pre-training to post-training. Within 6 weeks of intervention subjects increased their running distance and speed absent of symptoms of CECS. Follow-up questionnaires were completed by the subjects at 7 months following intervention; subject one reported running distances up to 12.87 km pain-free and subject two reported running 6.44 km pain-free consistently 3 times a week.

DISCUSSION:

This case series describes a potentially beneficial conservative management approach to CECS in the form of forefoot running instruction. Further research in this area is warranted to further explore the benefits of adopting a forefoot running technique for CECS as well as other musculoskeletal overuse complaints.

What is Distance Running and Why is it So Hard?

Well, put quite simply, running is fast walking with some variations. If we look at it closely, it’s really a series of highly coordinated funny-looking hops that allow us to move at a high speed. In fact, it’s these silly jumps that differ running from walking; in a walking scenario, one foot is in contact with the ground at any given time.

Running is hard-wired into our brains - our ancestors developed the ability to run for long distances literally millions of years ago, presumably to hunt animals. We’ve got all kinds of physiological hardware that gets us across long distances much easier than most other animals. So, the obvious question is: Why do so many people struggle with distance running?

The simple answer is that America is obese (check out this article for an interesting graphical example of how we stack up against other modern countries http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/10/this-is-the-average-mans-body/280194/). However, the truer answer is that most of us have never really learned how to run. Why should we have to learn how to do an activity that’s genetically buried in our brains? Most babies try to run as soon as they learn how to walk, so how come such a simple action requires teaching?

Proper running requires teaching because it’s actually a really complex way of getting around. Elements like footstrike, knee drive, heel return, and arm form can all dramatically affect a runner’s performance, not to mention other factors like mental toughness, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, turnover, and pacing. Anybody can go out and slog a few miles, but why are there some people who can go really far really fast?

Running is, at its core, an exercise in physics. Potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, muscles load and release weight, spring-like tendons in the legs store energy, and muscle elasticity allows us to easily decrease or increase pace. The muscular propulsion system, however, is powered by oxygen, which means that running for more than about five or ten seconds requires some level of aerobic fitness. America is pretty short on aerobic fitness these days, so the secret for the average runner is maximizing the efficiency of each step. The techniques I’ll be describing over the next few week focus on going as fast as possible over a relatively long distance, so get those GPS watches ready.

Here’s the first step: each time your foot strikes the ground while running, you’re carrying about three times your “real” body weight on one leg. Simply lower that weight and you’re already halfway there. Do this by improving your footstrike. The most efficient footstrike is slightly ahead of the body on the midpoint or ball of the foot. If proper footstrike is achieved, the body loads weight onto the leg muscles at a point at which the leg is directly under the torso, reducing unnecessary stress on joints and muscular exertion. 

Proper footstrike: When the foot hits the ground, the midfoot strikes first and muscular loading occurs when the leg is below the torso.

A large majority of casual runners think that by lengthening their stride (reaching their legs further in front of them on each step), they’ll be able to go faster and run more easily. While it’s true that lengthening the stride allows a person to move more quickly, it also encourages a heelstrike, seen below.

Heelstrike: The runner on the right is about to heelstrike - this means that the first part of his foot to hit the ground will be the heel. This will force loading before his leg is under him, resulting in extra stress on his knees. The runner on the left is exhibiting better form, with a fore/midfoot strike.

The runner on the left in the picture is also exhibiting another aspect of better form: knee drive and better general bodily posture. We’ll address these differences in the next post. In the meantime, work on that footstrike!

Wherefore Heelstrike

I’ve been thinking about his whole forefoot vs heel-strike thing. I’m convinced that the most natural way to run - the way we have evolved to run - is with a fore-to-mid foot strike, under the body’s centre of gravity - see many discussions and demonstrations of this, including Daniel Lieberman from Harvard, Lee Saxby - and others at the Natural Running Center such as Mark Cucuzzella, who I think heads it.

Anyway, the point is that it makes extremely good sense, logically, and experientially: I’ve occasionally just switched briefly to a heel striking pattern for comparison, and I almost can’t believe how horrid it feels - slow, clunky, inefficient, painful…. So, that being the case, why do so many of us run like that instead of using our proper evolved stride? If you look at young kids they run perfectly - vis, my 5 year old son:

I’ve wondered how it happens that we don’t just keep running like that, and this morning I had an idea that seems to me plausible. As kids we run all the time, often barefoot (if our parents and teachers allow it), and probably unsurprisingly, tend to do it properly. Many of us (in the developed/Western world) become far less active as we get older: we walk, at most. Then when we start deciding we should exercise, what do we start off doing? Walking. On a treadmill, like as not. In cushioned shoes that cut us off from the ground (or treadmill, as the case may be) no doubt.

A proper walking movement is in fact heel to toe, with the heel landing ahead of one’s centre of gravity as well. It’s really quite different from running. So, we start walking. Then we walk faster. In fact, enabled by our cushioned shoes I think we walk faster than we would do comfortably barefoot, because of the heel-striking motion. (Barefoot I find I break into a slow trot at not very quick speed, and find it much smoother and more efficient than walking fast.) The next thing, from that excessively-fast walk, is to break into a run … by speeding up the same movement a little more.

Voila: over-striding heel-strikes ahoy!

I do think a heelstrike has its place: the more I’ve run trails, the more I’ve found that the uneven terrain dictates a lot of flexibility of cadence, stride, landing - everything. There are times when a particular step might land with heel first, but I’ve never found myself doing that in such a way that it’s jarring: it probably follows a shorter step, and a change in the terrain such that there’s just less impact, so the heel is ok. None of that is conscious, by the way, which is why I’m not entirely sure what’s making it work. ;-)

However, for the vast majority of the time, I think forefoot landing is definitely more natural, more efficient, and kinder on your body. Somehow (and I do wonder about the link I’ve proposed here) many of us slip into an inefficient and damaging gait, and I think we need to be very mindful of the way we run, and learn again to do it like a child.

The main suggestion that occurs to me from all of that: start to run (instead of walking) at lower speeds than you think the transition from walking to running should occur. Short strides - don’t worry about looking like you’re mincing along until your cardiovascular fitness allows longer strides and consequent faster pace. We mustn’t run as though its just rapid walking; they’re two very different forms of locomotion.

Track and Canadian beer sesh tonight, in honor of the first ever #BeerMile World Championship down in Austin, TX. Big ups to the newly crowned champ, Canadian Corey Gallagher, who threw down a 5:00.23. That is utterly absurd. If you don’t know what a beer mile is, go to FloTrack.com and watch!

#TrailsAndAles #flobeermile #GuelphBeer #RoyalCity #BeerRun #HeelStrike @flotrack_trackisback

Triathlon coach Graeme Turner explains why it’s important not to focus solely on the foot when considering your running technique. Look at your hips, chest and knees too.

Its not all about foot-strike.

If we spend our time at the park looking at other runners thinking “heel striker” (im guilty of this) Then i think we’re missing the point. We’re not looking at the form overall. and more importantly, why are we commenting on others? lets worry about our own form and getting in touch with our own bodies guys! lol

but I digress.

This isn’t brought up in detail in the article, but It did make me think…

I’ve noticed theres a common crossing of terms when saying “heel striking”. When we say “heel strike!” often times we are actually referring to “over-striding” which leads to an Extended Straight leg gait, ending in a foot-up, braking strike of the foot.

(in fact, you don’t have to be a chronic heel-striker to be guilty of over striding)

Some may strike heel first, but if they’re focusing on Good overall form, and the foot is landing under their center of gravity, then thats not that big of a deal in comparison. 

theres some more great reading here

Heel to Tibialis

I’ve been reading a few articles by Paul Ingraham about muscles, and stretching, and injuries, and such. Among the things that really struck me was his discussion of the Anterior Tibialis. In it, he describes the function of the anterior tibialis: eccentric contractions to hold up the foot and prevent it from flapping down to the ground after the heelstrike.

After the heelstrike.

I might just quote a chunk, as it’s interesting:

We usually think of the shin as a bony place, but in fact there is a good-sized muscle on the lateral face of the shin: the tibialis anterior muscle. The tibialis muscle works almost alone: it is the only muscle that strongly lifts the foot. Functionally, its major job is not to shorten, but to lengthen in a controlled way: to gently lower the forefoot after the heel strikes the ground. This requires an eccentric contraction — the muscle contracts while lengthening, as your biceps does when you lower a barbell.

Without the tibialis anterior’s powerful and well-coordinated eccentric contractions, your foot would slap ungracefully onto the ground with every step. On hard surfaces like concrete, the strain of preventing foot slapping is immense. For runners, that strain is often how shin splints usually begin, and is one of the main reasons to avoid hard-surface running. Eccentric contractions are known to cause additional muscle soreness after exercise, which is why the shin muscle tends to get really sore after running hard — and why the muscle tends to develop large, chronic trigger points.

He mentions (perhaps in another article) that this function is even more important - and stressing for the muscle - when running downhill, as the foot has to be controlled (using those eccentric contractions) through a greater distance. This led me to think about my efforts at running when I was in my mid-to-late teens. Then, I used to get what I now recognise to have been compartment syndrome in the anterior tibialis (not acute compartment syndrome; I still have my legs…). That was always particularly pronounced during and after running downhill.

This last few months of running, I’ve not had that at all. Not the slightest hint of it. I’ve had other things, for sure, but not that. I’ve even had shin pain (which is all that “shin splints” actually means), but not in the anterior tibialis.

Even running downhill

Now, I dislike running downhill; I’m not good at it; I find it uncomfortable - but it doesn’t hurt my shins. So what’s the difference nowadays?

Forefoot, baby.

I don’t land on my heel (anymore); I land on my forefoot or midfoot. So my foot doesn’t need that final bit of holding up by the tibialis. Certainly it needs holding up through the stride, but there’s probably not the eccentric contractions involved - at least not to anything like the same degree.

To me (and I should emphasise this is simply my own logical extrapolation based on Ingraham’s description of the tibialis’ function, and my own anecdotal experience) it seems very plausible that the reason I was getting that compartment syndrome was that my running style at the time required of the anterior tibialis a lot of eccentric contractions, and my style now does not. Given Ingraham’s description of the function of those eccentric contractions, I am further convinced I was heel-striking then, and am not now.

And further convinced that habitual and consistent heel-striking is A. Bad. Thing. It may well be true that over striding is worse than heel striking. It may even be true, as Ingraham contends, that the total amount of exercise is more important than either. But given that a heelstrike will require this eccentric effort from the tibialis, and a forefoot strike will not, and that the tibialis’ small fascia sheath renders it particularly susceptible to compartment syndrome, I submit that it makes good sense to avoid hitting the ground with your heel first.

The current faddishness of “barefoot running” notwithstanding, our gait evolved along with our feet - our bare feet - and I submit that is likely therefore that the way we run barefoot is overall the best. And I challenge anyone to go and heelstrike barefoot and not regret it. xP

When you use hyperarch, your engage your glutes and your heel doesn’t touch the ground, there is no such use for this.****** glutes fascia strengthening through the #hyperarch of the feet, holistic #body training system #jamesharden #kobe #lebron #jordan #basketball #glutes #injury #prevention #anklesprain #barefoot #barefootrunning #barefoottraining #hop #plyometrics #fast #curry #heelstrike #running #jogging by secretofathleticism
January 16, 2015 at 04:46AM

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