Is It True That Only Sprinters Run With Forefoot Striking?
Continuing with the discussion on how people should land when they run, it is very interesting to look at the elite marathoners and what particular form they use. Many of those against forefoot striking have sent me videos and pictures of these athletes claiming they are “heel striking.” It almost turns into a he said/ she said type of argument because these runners are moving so fast that it is difficult to slow the video down or alter the video angle to yield a black and white answer. There are, however, many videos on You Tube that show strike patterns of various marathon runners.
Historically, we believed “sprinters” tended to run on their toes due to the speed of their running. This can be a very subjective statement because what may be sprinting to me is slow to an elite marathoner. Ryan Hall, an Olympic marathoner and America’s fastest marathoner, runs the marathon at an average pace of 4:46 minutes per mile. Most people cannot even sprint that fast. So can we make a blanket statement that only sprinters run on their forefoot?
In an educational video segment known as “Back to Basics,” Hall describes what he refers to as the proper way to foot strike. He advises landing “flatfooted,” not on your toes or on your heel.1 In fact, he advises against landing on the heel because the energy of the ground reactive force is back against you in the opposite direction of that in which you are moving.
When you strike flatfooted or on the forefoot, you land with the ankle dorsiflexed and knee bent. According to Hall, this is like a spring that is already coiled and ready to explode off the ground. This concept uses your body’s momentum and energy to propel you forward. Not only is this evident in the video of Ryan Hall running but he has, in his own words, admitted to not striking on the heel.
I am not suggesting that Ryan Hall is an expert in biomechanics, but he can run efficiently and extremely fast, and does this without heel striking.
1. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82ghOr78FcU . Accessed May 16, 2012.