Advised to heel strike to avoid ITBS...


Hoping for some advice, please.

I've had allsorts of ITB problems in the past 6 months which I got over after some work on activating and strengthening my glutes. Now back and running decent distances (up to around 15k).

However, I've developed really tight hip flexors as well as a tight ITB - though no pain. Decided to go to a running coach on the basis that it might be something biomechanical. He said that my right foot was splaying outward when I ran (due to poor balance - i.e. weak glutes, I guess?) which was putting a lot of strain on my hip flexors and my ITB. Which sounds rational.

He advised that I should aim to heel strike - both when walking and running - but build the running up slowly. I've been doing this a few days and feel a lot less tightness in my leg day-to-day. I'm running every other day, but only about 2km making a point of heel-striking and frankly it's pretty hard-going. I don't feel like I can run much beyond 2kma nd I'm worried I'm putting a lot of strain on my shins.

So, I guess my questions are:

a) does the above advice sound rational?

b) If so, how can I avoid doing somethign bad to my shins?

c) Any ideas as to when I could expect to be running in excess of 10km again?

I will, of course, ask the running coach the same things, but a second (or thirdetc.!) would be hugely reassuring.

Thank you!



  • This struck me as a little odd -

    "He advised that I should aim to heel strike - both when walking and running"

    I can't think of any non deformed person who doesn't heel strike whilst walking

  • Sorry, I didn't explain that very well.

    He told me to really emphasise the heel strike when I'm walking (and particularly going up/downstairs). So basically to plant my heel down then make a specific point of lowering the rest of my foot to the ground. That's not much clearer, is it?!

    The rationale being that planting your heel down gives the rest of your leg a solid foundation from which to spring.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭

    Since I have gone from a heel strike to a mid / forefoot strike I no longer get any ITB issues.

  • Hmm. That sounds pretty odd to me too. I'm trying to visualise going up and down stairs heel first, sounds pretty uncomfortable to me!! The rational sound pretty wrong to me too.
    I'm not saying the advice you've been given is wrong, but if someone adivsed me along those lines I'd be looking for advice elsewhere as it doesn't really fit in with my personal views of how  the body works.

  • Doesn't sound right to me at all. I couldn't get rid of my ITB despite rigorous stretching and foam rollering.  I went to see a good sports physio who explained that no amount of strectching would cure it.  For me, it was caused by a muscle imbalance (also weak glutes).  I've been prescribed glute exercise as well as the usual squats and lunges.  I'm well on the road to recovery and managed a hard and fast 7 miles last night with no issues.  I would be very reluctant to start heel striking, especially if you are naturally a mid-foot or fore-foot striker.

  • Some people walk as well as run on their forefoot. If you go barefoot a lot you tend to, as thwunking a heel down is jarring.

    I don't understand the reasoning behind converting to heel striking.. if there's hip imbalance due to weak glutes, you increase this by spending longer in stance phase of gait cycle as foot strikes, rather than a quicker forefoot plant before toeing off.

    I've had ITBS previously.. over-striding caused mine, even as a forefoot runner. Shortening stride, increasing cadence and sorting out muscle imbalances have fixed it. The reason foam rollering and stretching doesn't really fix it is because the band itself is so tough and doesn't have elastic properties, it's only the tensor fascia lata which is superior to the band that you can stretch. The ITB has no stretch receptors in it.

  • Thanks for all the replies. Really helpful; confirmed some things and raised others I hadn't considered.

    Excuse my not being too bright, but what exactly does 'spending longer in stance phase of gait phase' mean?

    The logic behind the advice was that the reason I have all the tightness is because my foot points outdated when I run. That twists the leg round a bit and so puts increased pressure on the hip flexor and that by landing firmly and straight on your heel, you keep the leg straight.
  • Ian M wrote (see)
    I can't think of any non deformed person who doesn't heel strike whilst walking

    I was a toe walker till I was over 16. Deliberately changed the way I walked after a few comments made it obvious to me that I was being pointed and laughed at for having a strange walk, and after seeing people mimic me and realising that yes, it looked bloody weird. Didn't find out till years later that persistent toe walking in kids is a major pointer for autism, which non-coincidentally I was also diagnosed with later in life. And no, I'm not deformed in any way. LOL!

    DMS - if your foot splays outwards because of one-sided muscle weakness, then strengthening whatever the weak muscle is would probably help to bring your foot back into line. But if there's no muscle weakness and your foot just naturally splays outwards, trying to force it to point straight ahead will most likely just cause a strain or injury somewhere else.

    That's different from altering your gait from heel striking to mid or forefoot striking, which loads of people seem to be able to do fairly easily.

  • None of us here have actually seen you run or walk so your running coach may have a point . However the recommendation to deliberately heel strike seems wrong to me.

    Your foot could splay out for a number of reasons , one of them being tight glutes, you may also have some tibial torsion ( your shin bones slightly twisted ) which will force your foot to splay out, it could also be a number of other tightnesses or weaknessess so best to see somebody like a sports physio to get it checked out.

    Landing on your heel is no gaurantee that your foot won't turn out and it doesn't go to the root cause of why your foot turns out.

    Heel striking is not a good long term solution particularly if you aren't much of a heel striker already
  • D M S wrote (see)

    Excuse my not being too bright, but what exactly does 'spending longer in stance phase of gait phase' mean?

    Just the time your foot is in contact with the ground before you toe off and go into the next phase, the swing phase whereupon the other foot touches down. The longer you're in stance phase the more work the structures in the foot, calf, leg & hip muscles have to do to absorb ground reaction force (shock). image

  • Is your right ankle not very flexible (ie you can't bring your toes towards your shin very much)?  A podiatrist manipulated my foot and then I could flex more and found naturally my toes pointed forward more.

  • I used to heel strike (naturally) when running and had dreadful problems with ITBS!  Since moving to forefoot running my symptoms have vastly improved and with dedicated stretching, I'm pain free.  Sounds a bit like hocum to me tbh but as someone said, we haven't watched you run so probably aren't best placed to comment fully. 

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