heel-ball/ball-heel footstrike

Now I'm really confused. Does anyone else know the answer to this? Being a big fan of Bob Glover I read all about how Elites don't run using the normal pattern of landing on the heel, but rather on the outside edge of the foot (ball-heel as opposed to heel-ball), and I set about trying to run this way, which I found I tended to do normally anyway.

Then I had a minor foot injury which I took to a (non-running) physio, who took me to task for not landing heavily (!) on my heels - after a while I gave that up and concluded that if you're going to listen to a physio make sure they know about running specifically, otherwise you're wasting your time and lots of money and possibly even risking injury to boot.

Finally I turned to RW for some common sense - but the only time they've touched on the subject of footstrike in the last 12 months was to advocate the heel-ball alternative. In fact this month, they suggest that the best running economy involves landing on the heel.

The only thing I have more or less surmised is that it depends on how fast you run which footstrike you use - but should one be working towards one or the other, that's the question? At the moment, I'm caught somewhere awkwardly in between. s.


  • well, i think the footstrike evolves if you start off, say at 10 minute pace and move up to 6-7 minute pace, or train at the latter paces as part of interval sessions etc.
    i always thought i landed heel first until i had someone observe me once i'd got faster. certainly, the heel-ball footstrike does protect your joints more, and i think it's more economical. some runners seem to be able to run fast using this footstrike whilst hardly raising their feet from the ground, even elite marathoners and ultra runners(if i'm not mistaken)
    it depends on size and weight and efficiency, too. it would be unwise for a 15 stone runner to try changing footstrike.
    i'm afraid i can't shed any light on this, apart from to say that i think it's something which evolves...
  • yes, I think you're right about the pace thing, at least from my experience.

    the faster you run the more you naturally find yourself getting up on your toes and off your heels. my training pace is about 7 mins. so I find ball-heel more comfortable for most purposes. if I'm going super-slow on a recovery day, I seem to find myself switching to heel-ball without thinking.

    I believe you may be right about heel-ball being more protective of the joints, perhaps becaue of the greater range of motion that the foot goes through in landing, which absorbs more of the impact. (as you say, some Elite marathoners do run this way - though my understanding is that msot Elites run heel-ball even at this distance).

    however, I get worried when I hear a lot of runners hammering along, pounding the road with their heels in an exaggerated way - you can really sense the jarring force of the impact. one thing I read which seemed to make a lot of sense was that the quieter you're running, the more efficiently you're running.

    another factor is that landing on your heels seems to create more braking action, which is obviously undesirable - I don't know if this is true, but it feels true.

    conversely, I know from painful experience that landing too much on the toes is a quick way of bringing on an injury.

    as I say, I'm pretty confused --- s.
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