Footstrike 101: How Should Your Foot Hit The Ground?

A midfoot strike generally produces lower impact and push-off forces. Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Quick Tips to Fixing Your Form

Running gait analysis expert Jay Dicharry, director of biomechanics at Rebound Physical Therapy in Bend, Ore., offers up some basic tips to improve your form and increase your running economy.

Get out of the back seat. “A lot of runners run with an arched lower back, which puts the body weight too far back,” Dicharry says. “Running in lighter shoes with a flatter heel-toe ramp will help facilitate getting out of the back seat, but so will consciously running with upright, slightly forward-leaning posture.”

Land close to your body. The reason many runners run with a dramatic heel-striking gait is because they’re overstriding. Try to have your feet hit the ground as close to your body as possible by shortening your strides and increasing your stride cadence.

Vary the surfaces you run on. “Your body figures out how to land better when you have more practice landing on surfaces that aren’t flat and smooth,” he says. Not everyone has access to undulating trails with rough surfaces. If that’s the case, vary your runs by running through a grass park or running over the rough concrete of an alley.

Run softly. Try to run with as little impact force as possible with light footstrikes. “Smooth and soft is best,” Dicharry says. “Being a heel-striker isn’t bad, but if you hear a ‘ker-plop’ every time your foot hits the ground it means that muscles in the lower leg are working overtime to control the lowering down of your forefoot—one of the major causes of shin splints. If that’s you, shortening your stride so that your feet land closer to your body, increasing your cadence and running more upright will help reduce that impact force a lot.”

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