Laura Should Not Recommend Heel Strike in Week 2

Firstly the Couch to 5K is great - I'm on week 4 and as an ex-40 a day smoker that is an achievement - I only completed week 1 without stopping on my 5th attempt and had to do week 2 6 times. Now I've just finished week 3 3 times without stopping straight off the bat. Week 4 tomorrow morning!

However I was very shocked to hear Laura advising me to ensure that I land on my heel in the week 2 podcast. Forcing a style on new runners is a very bad idea especially when it may be a bad one. Initially I complied with Laura's instruction but it felt wrong - so I did some reading:

Research is building up on potential injury risks associated with heel striking in "good" running shoes. This is intuitive - if heel-strike was natural we'd all be able to do it in bare feet. Give it a try! Your knee and hips will jar. Expensive running shoes just cushion this jarring.

Landing on our mid to fore foot allows nature's own shock absorbers to work in union - the metatarsals, the ankle ligaments and the Achilles - before the shock reaches the knees or hips. This is what they evolved to do do when we were running down kudu.

On YouTube you can find orthopaedic surgeons who run advocating bare or minimalist running styles. I'm now running in old plimsolls and I get immediate feedback if I'm doing anything wrong.

IMPORTANT EDIT: I did get some soreness in my achilles whilst running in plimsolls so I stopped immediately. After yet more research I found that the achilles loses elasticity as you age - I'm 47. I have gone back to trainers but I haven't given up on minimalist running and am doing long walks in the plimsolls coupled with heel drops and calf stretches every day.

If you're going to try minimalist running do it very slowly!!! Particularly if you're old like me.

These are good:

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21 Replies

  • Actually - it's quite strange to me -- for approx 80% of all westerners do indeed run on their heels. I can only assume it comes as a kind of extension to how they walk - as I believe most of us do walk on our heels. When I did start out on this programme , I considered how I did run ( not that I ran much at all - but it seemed natural to me to run on the mid to fore foot.) I have had a try on heel striking - but I feel that I would need a shoe with a highly padded heel to do so.

  • I was advised to change my style from heel striking to landing on my mid foot as I was having problems with my shins. It took some doing , I started slowly and kept stopping when I felt I was going back to the old way but it saved me from haveing to give up

  • So what are your thoughts about it all now?

  • I wouldnt recommend anyone to heel strike because of the impact damage, I do wear running trainers that I bought to correct my ankles from rolling which have stopped my knees from damage as I had a lot of pain and swelling on the inside of my right knee.

  • I am unsure of how ankles would roll if we run on our mid-foot. They certainly do if we heel strike as the foot rolls through from heel to forefoot. Perhaps there is some minimal ankle roll as we go from mid-foot to fore-foot before lifting the foot forward for the next step???

  • It is a difficult one because research suggest there is pro and cons of both techniques. I run midfoot on short speed runs but quickly tire of this technique if running a 12k and revert back to heel strike. I would not recommend anyone else doing this but just feels right for me. Good luck and well done for kicking the smoking habit sounds like a great 2014 for you! :)

  • Carole

    Just curious as to how long ( in your life) you have been running on your heels. It is apparently the most common way. For me , I don't - and I do recal that as I child I did not wear shoes very much at all. Can't really remember wearing shoes much before I was about 12 years of age. Children where I lived as a child mostly went shoeless to school right up until almost High School years. PS Those years have long gone though - and everybody wears shoes now :)

  • I have a "theory" about why many people use heel strike while running. It is that it is harder work to run on the mid-to forefoot. You must use the calf muscles , ankles and knees joints much more as "natural" shock absorbers - whereas when running on the heels the shin an dother leg bones are used to support the body. This is less demanding -- but leads to injury as bones are more apt to become damaged. The rigidity of the leg bones - when being used in this way - also potentially causes shock further up in the hips.

  • I was a runner at school and competed at County level always running this way. Being of a forces family maintained a level of fitness throughout until a new career completed absorbed me and funnily enough my daughter who now competes at County level! (1st in her category! pushy mother!) Picked up my trainers again new years day and love it! Running shoeless wow!! good days :)

  • Do be careful with plimsolls. Forty years ago, as a student, I thought I would try "jogging" as it was called then. I went out for one session in plimsolls. The next day, I could barely walk. I had messed up my Achilles tendon. For months afterwards, I could not run even a few steps to catch a bus, because the pain was excruciating.

    I have no idea whether I heel strike or not. If I try to think about the mechanics of running or breathing, it messes me up so much that I have to stop running!

  • Thanks for that advice. I wish I'd read it sooner. I have amended the post above. The main thing is that I listened to my body the moment I felt pain.

  • Thanks for all your comments. Boy you're an active lot.

    Anyway I came a slight cropper - thinking I was 20 years younger and could do anything. See edit of original post above.

    I still finished week 4 this morning but in trainers after walking back home to change. :blush:

    My main point stands in that Laura should not dictate heel-striking in week 2. Did anyone else notice that?

  • When I first started the programme last year, I really struggled with pace, technique and breath. As a newbie to running, I probably would have followed everything Laura advised if it weren't for my partner who was running with me and advised me where to go for more information. I didn't follow some advice and developed a comfortable and fairly quick running style which is making this time around so much easier. It is worrying that the information given is maybe out of date and they didn't consider this when making the programme. It would be more useful to have her suggest where to go for information.

  • There is a blogger, who goes in depth into the whys and wherefores of achilles pain, knee pain and alignment. One of her constants is that most people have spent their lives walking in shoes with some kind of lift in the heel, even men. This has shortened the achilles tendon dramatically. We almost always wear shoes with a thick or rigid sole to protect our feet from debris or ick on our paths and our feet have lost a lot of their elasticity and muscle. Modern trainers have the cushion in the heel because that is where people with short calf muscles and poor foot muscle tone need them. It makes sense to heel strike if you are in trainers. If you have flexibility and muscle tone in your feet, you have a bit more leeway in your shoe choice and where you strike your feet. In the winter or on treadmills I use my trainers, but as soon as there is no snow/slush/frozen mud, my vibrams go on and I run toe-heel

  • Do you have a link for anyone else reading this thread?

  • When I first started to run, I did so on the understanding that I have never been able to run -- and wanted to learn how to. I knew absolutely nothing about the skills and equipment associated with running. So I researched the Internet -- where I found a LOT of conflicting information. However some of that info seemed "logical" to me and others didn't. I spent some time in a Forum for experienced runners - and discovered a lot of aggression on both sides of the shoes argument - with one side proposing their argument scientifically and the other side simply defending their practices almost dogmatically.

    I am convinced personally that heel striking is bad -- even if Jo Blo can run a marathon that way in a mind blowing time. There are shoes that have a kind of "mid-way" design to them - with drops of around 4-5mm and some degree of sole padding .

  • I started C25K running in 10 year-old crepe soled Filas that I bought on a cricket tour when the ground was too dry for studs and I am able to land mid-foot just fine with no pain except aching calves (post run) that are being asked to actually do some work after 30 years!

  • Well for now I'm working on regaining elasticity in my Achilles and calves before I try the plimsolls again. I may even invest in some Vibram 5 toes. I only hope I'm not too old to regain lower leg suppleness.

  • "I only hope I'm not too old to regain lower leg suppleness"

    Probably not, just ease into it. I could never get on with trainers and started the programme in a pair of daps until someone got me some vibrams. I'm 58. I think you move your whole leg a lot more with a mid or fore foot strike, so it is more strenuous until you get used to it. It certainly works out calf muscles and ankles more.

  • Pingu7931

    There's no need to go overboard :) As I said there are "minimalist" shoes that are light and comfortable - I bought a pair of the new 2014 Nike Free 5.0 and the Saucony Kinvara 3 ( these are the 2013 model and selling cheap) -- both have 4 mm heel drop and are a good compromise between barefoot and the large heeldrop shoes that many wear. I don't have any trouble with my calves now ( at age 67) - but I have run around 150 klms in my older Free 5.0's ( which were just a half size too small which is why I decided to get another pair yesterday)

  • Hi Bazza,

    67! That's very encouraging. I have a client who's 82 and still nips out for a 2 mile run of an afternoon.

    You're right about the shoes but I do kind of feel Nike probably got us into this heel-striking-injury mess in the 1970s. Plus I hear part of their business practice is to make models unavailable often to encourage people to bulk buy a shoe that works for them (I just finished reading "Born to Run").

    The ten year-old Filas I'm running in have a 6mm heel drop (and a crepe soul) and I'm landing mid foot so they're kind of working for me for now - no ankle/knee/hip pain. I shall have to look around once I've graduated and want to up the ante. Having read that book I'm thinking about trail running at some point - Hampstead Heath is just round the corner from me but it's up a hill and I'm not quite ready for hills yet.

    BTW I see you can even buy Tarahumara running sandals online! There's even a diy kit:

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