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Is Heel Strike Bad Running Running Bad?

Is Heel Strike Bad Running? How and Why Heel Striking Isn't Dangerous!

female runners rotation running stride Aug 15, 2023

Is Heel Strike Bad Running? This is a conversation I’ve been having a lot lately and I wanted to share my two pennies with you all too. My short answer is… No, heel striking in itself is not bad.

HOWEVER, It depends more on what the rest of your body is doing when the heel strikes.

1. Where is the foot in relation to the rest of the body?

If you are striking with your heel, on a nearly straight leg, way out in front of your body. Then yeah, you are going to experience a significant shock wave of ground reaction forces up the chain. If you are striking with your heel, with your foot close to your center of mass on a slightly bent knee, you are probably good.

2 - What is the rest of the body doing?

I know I talk about rotation a lot, but it matters so much for runners! To be able to move forward efficiently you have to rotate. Your whole pelvis needs to rotate from side to side. For that to happen your femurs (thigh bones) have to rotate in your pelvis and your thorax needs to counter-rotate (rotate the other way) so that you can keep running and looking forward.



This concert of rotation happens so that you can minimize the negative impact of ground reaction forces on your body while storing some of that energy to keep moving forward. Maximum rotation happens a toe-off so that by the time the foot strikes the ground, that side of the pelvis is already rotating back, which absorbs some of the forces and reduces the impact on the body.

It's a beautiful system; we were truly born to run! 

Maybe it’s just that heel striking sounds bad… maybe if we just called it “rearfoot landing” instead that would make people feel more comfortable? On top of all that, rear foot landing (yep, definitely sounds better) has actually been shown to be more efficient for most endurance runners (until you get down into the lower end of 6-minute miles where the energy expenditure equals out).

Naturally, I’m going to get someone who says, “But I switched to a forefoot strike and all my problems went away.”

Switching to a forefoot strike will require your center of mass to be more up over your foot and alter how the whole body is moving to get you there effectively. Again, it’s what the rest of the body is doing, not purely what part of the foot hits the ground! So, how do you optimize what the rest of the body is doing? You know what I’m going to say right? Purposeful strength training!

When I program for runners, I take into account all of the phases of gait and the movement patterns needed to move with strength through them. You need a good landing to load, good loading for propulsion, and good propulsion for a good landing. All the parts are connected and intentional strength training (in addition to your running) will help optimize that!


That’s exactly what I show you how to do in my Women's Running Academy 12-Week Program!


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