Heal strike or run on toes,


im after a second opinion, I've running for years, and my running times are not bad, ive always heal striked, had a few injurys, little bits of shin splints, but put that down to change in footwear etc, 

recently spoke to a physio who measures gait, and she said you should never run on your heals, always on your toes, shorten your stride but speed it up, as its better for you, all the  long s distance runners run on the balls of there feet, and its aslo quicker, tryed it and felt really awkward, my back ached and my toes hurt, and though even over a short distance I felt more tired, 

has anyone had this, and is it true it's faster to run on your toes, or is it best just to go back to running the way i was before




  • I love the photo on the cover of "Advanced Marathoning" by Pfitzinger & Douglas - it features a heel striker par excellence. image

    Look at Ultra Runner Dean Karnazes terrible heel strike - he does ok.


    In principle you were given reasonable advice in that there are more efficient ways to run that in the long term may reduce injury risk. Not explaining how to get from heel strike to mid/forefoot strike seems irresponsible and is just going to fill her appointment book. 

    I would research and understand how to make the transition if you must. At the moment I don't have the time - it does't happen overnight. For a very basic overview on good form without getting too technical "The Art of Running Faster" (Julian Goater) provides a decent introduction. 



  • I noticed yesterday my 14 year old runs on the balls of his feet - he is rather averse to organised physical activity though he has an athletic physique and likes leaping around on his own terms.  I wonder if most kids run this way and if so what age they transition to heel striking and why?

  • Kids' gaits are as variable as adults. Some are toe walkers as youngsters and that creates a different set of issues. I am of the belief that early playing sport, free running generally encourages better movement patterns In non-symptomatic individuals. No evidence to back that up, only the kids and teens I've treated. 

  • Always beware anyone who makes ridiculous, sweeping statements involving words like: only, never, always, everyone, must, etc.

    There isn't a 'proper' or 'better' way to run - most people heel-strike when walking, moving forward through the foot as they increase speed, until they are sprinting on their toes.  To suggest that everyone does this at the same rate, or that there is only one proper way/safe way/injury-free way, is absolute nonsense.

    The truth is, there is no evidence that forefoot running prevents injury any more than heel-striking.  In fact, there is NO concrete evidence for either type of running - it's all pseudo-science and fashion.

    My wife is an exponent of what she calls "running" - she moves quickly on her feet in the way her body tells her - breathing rate, pace, foot-strike, stride-length - all of it.  She trusts her own body better than someone who she's never met!  It seems to work!image

  • Thanks for the feed back, 

    its just i heard a lot lately about forefoot running, and how it can speed your running times up, and its better for avoiding injurys,

    how much truth there is init I don't know

  • My mother (no athlete) keeps going on about this every time I mention running to her - she keeps saying "ah, but are you running or jogging?" waiting for me to take the bait... she says she was "taught" to run on her toes, and she's read that none of us "run properly any more" we're all "jogging" because we hit the ground with our heels first.  Like it's some sort of insidious habit that's crept into athletics.  Tried asking her how she can say the blokes who come romping home in my parkrun at 17mins can possibly be accused of "jogging", but she just humphed...

    Instinct suggests to me that shifting my weight forwards on my feet would be less stressful on my legs if that's how running barefoot is most comfortable.


  • Just my two pence...

    I always used to heel strike and had no problem running in that fashion for many years and as a 6'1", 14 and 1/2 stone fella was very happy with my regular cusioned asics road shoes and suffered no running related injuries.

    It was only once I started upping the distance over half mara that I began to get regular knee pain, so I thought what's the worst the worst that could happen and started leaning forward and planting my foot underneath my body instead of out infront (mid foot striking) as a friend of mine who ran triathlons had recommended. My knee pain vanished instantly and yes at fist my calves and lower back did feel the strain a bit but as with any muscle group, they got stronger and the pain/ tightness receeded.

    A cautionary tale however, a year or so later I put myself out of training for two months with a broken collar bone and foolishly assumed after a short build up I could basically pick up where I left off. This resulted in me overdoing the training and months of chronic shinsplints to follow.

    Remember forefoot striking isn't a cure all, just because someone is a toe striker doesn't mean they will magically avoid all injury, if they're not light on thier feet and are still pounding thier feet into the ground they can still end up hurting themselves.

    I guess I'm saying if it ain't broke don't fix it, and if you do decide on a change do the research and make any transition is a gradual one.

    Oh, and enjoy image

  • I am a natural ball of the foot runner and my heel barley touches the floor when I run, I put this down to walking on my toes as a kid and as such I have always runt his way.

    I used to be a fast runner at school and my teacher said this is because the way I run. Anyway I took up running again a year or so ago and as I have always been fairly fit went out and blasted my way through runs, subsequently I suffered big time with shin splints, calve pain and most recently a calf tear which has taken months to recover from.

    I went to a few people who told me I essentially had good running form (ball of foot, good posture etc) and these injuries were just me being to ambitious with pace and distance.

    Moral of the story is that I think it's more down to your body getting used to running however you run. Yes there are more effecient ways to run but its sometimes too hard for people to adapt.

    I have now learned to pace myself, build up my fitness and muscles and have finally managed to get rid of the injuries.  

    To give you an idea I started of running at 6:30 - 7 min/mile pace from not having run for years (hint: not a good idea).

    I now run around the 8 min/mile and when I feel comfortable start upping my pace when I can listening to my body as I go.

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