How do you find the perfect footing while running? No matter how many people you ask, you will no doubt find that everyone has their own opinion of what works and what does not work for them when they run. There are a bunch of personal formulas but seemingly no sure answer to the type of footing that would work best for you.
Does perfect footing exist? That is exactly what we want to answer in this article. Read on to find out!
Types of Footing
When we refer to footing while running, we are usually referring to where you land on your foot when you first hit the ground. This is also known as a foot strike. First off, let us zoom into the three types of foot strikes available to a runner. They are:
- The Heel Strike, or landing on your heel first when running.
- The Forefoot Strike, or landing on the area of your foot just below your toes, usually the ball of your foot.
- The Midfoot Strike, or landing on the area between your heel and forefoot, effectively distributing the impact of landing between your forefoot and heel.
There are many debates as to which footing is best for runners. In recent decades, the most advocated footing by many running coaches was the forefoot strike, which has been regarded to be a less-injury prone style, especially when compared to the heel strike, which has been known to cause more injuries.
But is this always true?
“There are a bunch of personal formulas but seemingly no sure answer to the type of footing that would work best for you.”
What is “Perfect” to You?
In our search for the “perfect” footing, we must always first remember to define what is perfect in the first place. Does a perfect footing mean that speed is maximised, or does a perfect footing refer to minimising proneness to injury?
Depending on your answer to the above, you may find that different footing styles apply. But before that, let us look at what each foot striking type has to offer:
Midfoot and Forefoot Strike
Both of these strikes are generally thought to correspond to speed. Try going on a sprint and you will see why; the natural tendency would be to run and land on your midfoot or forefoot when you are trying to run as fast as possible.
However, running on your midfoot or forefoot does not necessarily prevent injuries, especially when you are running longer strides. In fact, it merely shifts the areas of injury to the calves and Achilles' tendon. If you are a regular forefoot runner, you may realise that you always tend to get calf cramps after intensive workouts.
Heel strikes are considered to be the most common type of foot strike. They are said to brake momentum and could cause pain or injury.
However, according to this study of elite 21km runners, it was observed that 75% of these elite runners landed on their heels, 24% landed on the midfoot, and 1% landed on the forefoot. Furthermore, the study advocates that there is no evidence heel-strikers are more prone to injury. Heel strikes are not as bad as they seem to be after all.
So having known all of this, what does it really mean for you as a runner?
Perfect is Natural
In a nutshell and ironically enough, the perfect footing is when you land naturally. Science has proven nothing other than the fact that changing your foot strike type may cause more problems than it solves.
When you run normally, your feet will naturally adapt between the heel, midfoot and forefoot depending on your speed and pace, and that is all you really need. So let go, and let your body do its magic.
If you insist, there is something that you can focus on to improve your running, which is where your feet land realtive to your body. Overly extended strides are generally bad for you as they will cause a braking momentum as well as injuries. Lean your body forward and practise landing your feet below your waist. Keep your strides small but frequent to maintain the same speed as with longer strides.
So in conclusion, perhaps there is no true perfect footing after all. It really does not matter as long as you feel comfortable and natural as you run.
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