Heel strike, mid foot strike or forefoot strike?

After popping to my local running store today to treat myself to a shiny new pair of trainers I found that I am a "heel striker and sometimes a mid foot striker".......terms I have never heard of before.

As you can probably gather, I am new to running and currently training for my first half marathon. I overpronate and wear appropriate stability trainers/orthotics. I try to keep shoulders relaxed and not cross my arms ver my chest when I run and I keep looking at the horizon... I thought that would constitute good running form...but now I hear that how you strike the floor can change how well you can run or at least how prone you are to injury....

Could someone shed some light for me please on the whole thing - if I am a heel striker then is this a bad thing? Should I be actively trying to change this and if so, why and HOW?! What should I be doing?



  • This is my latest 'thing', so I'm happy to natter about it image  Basically, a heel striker does so because shoes are so cushioned in the heel that it numbs the sensations of impact that result from landing this way.  Unfortunately, poor body mechanics mean this is a very jarring experience for you and it gets repeated in every step.  A more 'natural' landing is midfoot first.  The downside is you can't just start landing midfoot and have everything work out.  You need to work on it...

    If you were to take off your shoes and run how you wanted (on a hard surface, such as concrete), you would naturally adjust from heel striking to mid foot striking as your body sensed the damage it's causing.  To me this is significant evidence that this is the way to go.

    If you don't want to get into this whole 'change the way you run' thing, then orthotics and getting shoes to match your pronation is the way to go.


  • Yea, its a nightmare to change from being a heel striker to a mid/front foot lander. When I sprint, it is always mid/frontfoot. But anything slower than 400m pace has historically had me heel striking.

    I was told to work on this after developing achilles tendonitis over a year ago (apparently heel striking flicks the achilles and can cause damage over time).

    You'll almost never see a world class runner heel strike. It is inefficient to the runner as it effectively slows you down before you push off again. There are some great You Tube videos that show this in practice.

    I've found that purchasing some minimalist trainers has really helped. The heels in most running shoes are so damn thick that it is almost impossible not to heel strike.....and you don't feel discomfort when you do because of all the adiprene/DNA/Gel/Air bollox that is in them.

    But if you get a pair of Adidas Adizero pros, believe me......you won't want to heel strike. They really punish poor technique. That said you shouldn't wear them everyday for every run. But they will, with the help of some You Tube instruction, get you started on the right path to mid foot landing.

  • Really interesting chaps, thanks.

    My shoes are cushioned to sin because of the over pronation. I actually feel somewhat uncomfortabe standing and walking with no shoes on when feet are totally flat and have always been more comfortable in heels which push my feet into arch.

    My question now is - yes ok my natural strike probably isnt heel strike when I run bare foot - but what could do more damage over the long run?

    - running minimalist with no arch support therefore risking various injuries, but consequently achieving a mid/forefoot strike


    - running in stability trainers therefore minimalising risk of injury from overpronating, having arch support, yet consequently heel striking because of cushining....

    Sounds like a catch 22 for someone like me! Confusing!

  • Well, it has to be your call really.  From my perspective, we wouldn't get injured so much if it wasn't for the trainers in the first place!  Basically, you need to make a choice-  less cushioned/ barefoot and you'll have to work on your technique A LOT!!!  The payoff is few/ no injuries.  Or shoe up and let them take some of the jolt away for you- but not all of it.  Third option is to wear your shoes, but still try and improve your running technique.  Apparantly, this is quite hard because the sensations you rely on to learn good technique are muffled by the shoes.

  • If its any help, I overpronate on one foot, and run in minimalist / barefoot shoes. There is less injury not more if done correctly. There shouldnt be any jolt if you run correctly. heel striking does not use your foot how it should be use, even in cushioned shoes I believe you should mid foot not heel strike.

    (other opinions are available!)

  • Have made the transition to mid foot over the last 12 months and I love the way my feet now feel stronger. I was suffering with tendonitis and plantar fasciitus (apologies for spelling), but now distant memories. Occasional shin pain and tight calves means I'm constantly trying to improve technique.  Low profile running shoes (Kinvaras in my case) certainly help. I just can't run anymore in heavy high heelers which feel like lead weights. So take the plunge and work on it.

  • Thanks everyone - so the fact I overpronate should not stop me from trying? Okay - maybe I will give it a go. I really need to get my gait properly looked at I think to work out what it is I am doing already and get some advice on how to improve.

  • lmk87: I've been running in "barefoot" (minimalist) shoes more and more for about 15 months - I now run in them all the time, basically. I read lots before deciding to make the transition to barefoot style running - short stride (landing with foot underneath your body, not in front), on the midfoot (with toes and heel then touching down), at a high cadence (180/minute i.e. each foot touches the ground 90 times per minute).

    My feet now have an arch, because they have muscled up (I was quite flat-footed).

    Take it slow if you decide to change - very short distances to start with - look it up online, there's lots of information about, including the risks of "too much too soon" (TMTS) injuries.

  • Essentially you should be landing with your knee slightly bent and your foot underneath you. You can achieve this by not over-striding. Ie reduce the length of your pace. It's not hard and no science or new technique to learn.
  • Sticky88Sticky88 ✭✭✭

    I'm reading Running with the Kenyans at the moment, and the guy talked about changing to 'barefoot' running starting initially with 1 mile etc. Anyone else has any personal experience of how they change their running to minimalist or barefoot or forefoot, how you did the transition, and how long did it take. I overpronate and confess to wearing 'support' shoes, but keen to change and want to do it properly

  • Thanks for your advice all!

    I filmes myself last night running in slow mo and so suprised that I am a complete heel striker (I didnt realise I was such a heel striker)!

    Did 4 mile run in my big jusicy support trainers (that I have spent oh so much money on) and just a few times tried to make my feet land under my body and land more forefoot - felt like I was going to fall over but must admit it did feel very efficient and when I filmed it, it LOOKED more efficient. I found it very hard to go slowly when running like that though and going into that position made me immediately faster. So how to I transtition - because I dont mind getting some barfoot trainers but how will I logistically make that work during a run i.e carrying trainers with me for miles?? How did you do it Debra? Any useful links you can share would be great as I dont know where to start!

    Yesterday found some info on Chi Running - is this basically the same principle and barefoot running? Anyone got any opinions of Chi running?

  • You don't really want to be running on your forefoot. Just slowing down and shortening your stride should do it. Also how much are you bobbing up and down? Try to run so your hips remain parallel to the ground and your thighs are acting as shock absorbers.

    Start off walking and just get gradually faster until you are running.
  • Arghh it is so confusing and there is so much conflicting information online TimR! Yday, I was reading all about forefoot striking and how that is the most efficient strike!

    So it doesnt matter where my foot lands as long as it is not heel first? try to make foot land under body weight right? Should I lean fw or be straight up?

    Do you think it is possible learn how not to heel strike in cushionsed support shoes? Is it a waste of time me trying to adjust my strike in these shoes?

    Thanks for advice. 

  • This is my view- We werent born with highly cushioned runnng shoes so why run in them? Im currently making the transition from heel striking in cushioned shoes to midfoot striking barefoot. I feel it will be worth it.


    I reccommend reading Born to Run if you havent all ready image

    Im getting my luna sandals next month image

  • You run in exactly the same way as you do at the moment. Upright. The only difference is that you don't have a straight leg when you land.

    I run in cushioned support shoes because we may have evolved to run without shoes, but not on tarmac and pavement which are pretty hard! I think even in prehistoric times we wouldn't have run across rock beds for miles.

    Look at YouTube there are plenty af Gait Advice videos.

  • mrandyyumrandyyu ✭✭✭

    I transitioned to a midfoot/forefoot strike in about 6 months, wearing cushioned shoes. Regardless of the footwear, this is how you should land in an ideal world but for some, the transition isn't so easy and rather than risk new potential injuries (calf and achilles related), it can be easier to just heel strike. If I'm tired after a long run, I sometimes revert back to heel striking for that final mile or two because that's how my body has run for years.

    Saying that, heel striking feels alien to me now if I'm feeling fresh and my form is strong.

    I used to have a chronic knee injury which has now largely recovered and only rarely flares up now.

    Best of luck if you decide to pursue it, you shouldn't regret it

  • This is all soooo interesting thank you all for your advice.

    Good luck to you John with your new shoesies! I havent read born to run yet - partly because I just dont have the time because I am always running. Ironic! But I will. Maybe I could get the audio book!

    Mrandyyu - did you transition by using youtube or did you see a specialist etc? How did you inform yourslef and check your form? I think as I am such a novice I find it hard to feel/see if what I am doing is correct. Great that your injury has mostly recovered now.

    TimR - true about the bedrock! I will get on youtube. I think when I chat to people about heel strike etc I always presume they are all running barefoot. I dont know how I feel entirely about doing that yet so it is good to know that I dont neccesarilly need to do that in order to change my gait, so I get to keep my pink cushioned stability shoes for now.


    Cheers all.

  • What's made it easier for me, I think, to transition from heel to midfoot striking over the last couple of months has been building up the strength in my legs (while I was off running with a couple of injuries) - squats, single leg reaches etc, building up the glutes and various other muscles. I went for an 8km run yesterday, the first for a while, and had no energy, but whereas a couple of months ago (with weaker legs and no energy) my form would have been poor, yesterday I felt myself driving forward quite well and my form was good right to the end, and I wasn't 'clomping' down on the ground like I used to towards the end of longer runs. I feel like I am skipping along easier now with slightly stronger legs, which I feel makes midfoot striking easier.

  • I injured my right knee on a long run about 2 months ago, and have found that striking mid-foot really helps and it took a lot of the impact away from the knee.  Took a while to get used to it (had aching calves for a while!) and takes discipline - if I lose concentration and get lazy I revert back to my old way.  I still strike more towards the heel on the left foot though!

    Good luck with it image)

  • Re. gradually transitioning to minimalist shoes, initially you can go for a very short run in the minimalist shoes, ending up back home, then change shoes and set out again. Gradually increase the time before the changeover.

    Once I was wearing them for reasonable periods, I started using the minimalist shoes for my shorter runs such as speedwork sessions, then for shorter tempo runs, then for longer runs...

    I have been known to put mine in my running backpack, run to my running club in "normal" running shoes, then change to the minimalist ones for the club run, then back to the others for the run home.

    I think the last time I actually wore "normal" running shoes was for a 30-mile road race at the start of July, and that was only because both times I'd recced the first half in my Neos, my feet started hurting. Don't know why, as I'm normally fine even on the roads.

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