Heel strike or midfoot?!

I'm really interested in the Alexander Technique, so naturally, now that I'm "running" , I've started reading into how Alexander Technique can improve by my body use when running. I've been reading Malcolm Ball's "The Art of Running" and looking at his clips on Youtube.

Unlike Laura (and therefore the NHS), who advises us to hit the ground heel first, Malcolm Balk strongly advised against this, stating that it has a braking effect.

He recommends hitting the ground midfoot. Don't you just love it when experts contradict one another?!

Just wondering what your take is on this?! 😕😬😱😵😲

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40 Replies

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  • Mid foot is what I have read too. That and the breathing are the two of laura's instructions I have ignored. Everything else I followed exactly.

  • I agee, I breathe in and out through my mouth - no counting or anything. It just sorts itself out and hasn't stopped me reaching any of my running goals!!🙂

  • Yes, I'm ignoring her advice on breathing too! I breathe as I need to breathe, otherwise I'd run out of air!

  • Good post - this has been discussed lots on here in the past and I think the general consensus is Laura may be wrong on this! I tend to naturally strike midfoot and I agree that this is generally seen as preferable to heel striking by most. I guess the important thing is to do what feels most comfortable for you at this moment. Be interested to read the other replies🙂.

  • I don't think about any of it - I just run how I have always run. If I started thinking too much about how my feet hit the floor I would probably lose all rhythm in my running.

    As for breathing, I agree with Sandraj39 I breath in-and-out through my mouth. I read an article a while ago stating that there is no proven benefit in breathing through your nose and as your mouth can take in more oxygen (which you need to do whilst running) then this is the most sensible route - it made sense to me, so that's what I do

  • The only thing negative about breathing through the mouth is the problem of breathing in bugs when it's "that" season.... :O

  • Ha ha ha! ....yep! ...the old lady who swallowed a fly.....! 🤢

    Mx

  • I don't think I've thought about it too much, I've taken Laura's advice on 'running tall' shoulders back etc., and as I am a 'slower' runner, I've just done what comes naturally whilst keeping relaxed and upright.

    I seem to be mid foot/ball of foot (depending if I'm going for a 'sprint')

    As for the breathing - I'm a mouth breather, just can't do the in through the nose etc.,

    Everyone's different, even if you look at all the elites, they don't have exactly the same technique.....

    I wouldn't advise a heel strike to anyone, just doesn't seem like a natural way to run.....so it is a bit strange that it's in there........maybe it's meant as a means to stretch out the foot etc., ....... 🤔

    Mx

  • Go for a run. If you strike heelfirst, then heelstriking is your thing. If you strike midfoot, then guess what...?

    If you fancy injuring yourself, focus on artificially changing the way you land while running. If you are really serious about it, read 'Born to Run' and throw away your trainers in favour of barefoot running at the same time.

  • That's what I've done. Well not the whole barefoot thing, but I run in "barefoot" minimalist shoes. Mainly Vibram 5Fingers.

    You only realy need cushioning if you heal strike. As somebody else has said, each time you heal strike you apply the brakes a little bit.

    Control shoes artificially change the way you land and hence the likelihood of running injuries may increase.

  • I remember being taught at medical school that you could tell by the structure of the calcaneum (the heel bone) that it was the bone "designed" to take the weight of a step and other bones more likely to get stress fractures. Just saying....

  • Having said that, I think you should run however feels natural for you. Some people prance not even on mid foot, but on their toes, and they just look DAFT!!

  • That's interesting to have the medical perspective. Hm, that's food for thought.... 😏

  • Mind you, doctors, hey - what the hell do we know - we're always changing our minds - we used to endorse cigarettes!

  • Recent articles that I have read say that as long as your foot is not landing in front of you then just go with what comes naturally.. whether that be forefoot, mid foot or heal... I have tried in the past to move to forefoot (because the books said so) and I gave up trying to force something that didn't feel natural...

  • I suppose everybody's body mechanics are slightly different, like everybody's handwriting is slightly different even though we all have a thumb and four fingers to a hand....

  • I've read on this forum how most people advise against heel striking. However, I've been trying to 'kiss the ground lightly with my feet' as Oldfloss advises (and as I'd really like to do instead of thudding along as I have been) and the only way I can do this is by landing on my heel and sort of rolling forward on my foot. Somehow the heel strike is less of a stomp. But, as has often been said, we're all different...

  • I just run... and breathe... :)

  • 😄

  • It works for me:) x

  • Me too x

  • in that order oldfloss? ;)

  • Together :) x

  • I never bothered about it much while on c25k, just trying to run at all was a big deal for me and also trying to stretch bend my leg back and up and couldn't reach my toes would be amusing for my running buddy!😂😵

    Now I'm better at that as times gone on, and I think more now on how I land, usually more midfoot, and what is it that oldfloss say's about landing lightly?😊

  • Really interesting to read all your replies. Thank you for responding everyone. Lots to think about! I'll be scrutinizing every runner I see now to see how there feet fall and how they're breathing! 😁

  • Hi...I'm new to running and I don't actually concentrate on how I land but I do land mid foot....that's how I land naturally

  • And I just breath naturally too...unless I'm going past a dog poo bin, then I stop breathing & speed up!! 😉

  • Yep, never done the heel striking thing or the breathing in through the nose out through the mouth..in fact mainly with mouth open at all times..😄

  • Gawd, I feel really silly for saying this but I've no idea how I land on each foot. I move them back and forth and hope to move faster than walking whilst all the time concentrating on not falling down. Same with the breathing.. I just go for it. I probably breathe mostly through my mouth except for when I am approaching someone and I try to look calm, cool and collected and subconsciously have my mouth closed until I've passed them.

    Has anyone here actually changed the way they run, technically, and how has it made a difference?

  • Not if they want to stay injury free, I don't think:)

  • Good question! 👍

  • I land midfoot but more on the outside on my right foot but flat midfoot on my left will soon walk like a cowboy.

  • I read an article about this recently (can't find the link for love nor money...sorry). I sent it to a friend who's training for a 100km run, and whose opinion I therefore trust as well-informed; she's always advised landing on the balls of your feet, "like little Cockney dancing legs" she says, at as close to 180spm as you can manage. Anyhoo, the article basically said a few things about how those two things (that 180spm and the ball-landing) are simplifications of of some rather more subtle research conclusions, including:

    1) the fact that elite runners (who were the test subjects in the initial research) all have a cadence of *at least* 180spm (meaning that *more than* 180spm could be appropriate too).

    2) these elite runners all had ball-landings at the beginning of their runs, but by 10km in, almost none of them did, and there were a load who were heel-striking by then.

    Add to that the fact that most of us aren't (yet?!) elite runners, and the whole maxim is a bit up the spout. The ball-landing stuff comes, I think, from the barefoot running movement, and whilst I see the principle of "getting back to nature" in terms of how to run ("Cavemen didn't have trainers, you know...") the fact is that we have moulded ourselves over our lifetimes (and indeed evolved because of it over generations) to need shoes. (Interesting fact: the same is true of our jaws and the use of cutlery. But I digress.)

    Main advice that came out of the article was:

    (a) not to let your leg go out in front of you too far, or the heel-strike you do will more likely jar up your leg. So keep your legs close to you, and that probably means quite a high cadence. I'm a super slow runner but I do about 170spm and land mid-foot as it happens.

    (b) run at the speed/cadence that suits you--don't aim for 180spm as if it's magic...just focus on point A above and the rest will come.

    Hope that makes sense.....

  • If you look at the advice on the www for C25K (NHS site) it states on there to not heel strike yet Laura on the podcast says to do so, I have asked the question on here before and the answer was that the podcasts were slightly out of date in regards to this piece of advice. I am not an expert but I do not heel strike, I find it incredibly unnatural I have done the c25k and got through it doing a mid foot strike without any issues. At one point in the past I was even landing on my forefoot as I had read this was the "barefoot" style. I think it all comes down to how you run and what is comfortable for you, I don't think running midfoot is wrong the same way as running heel first is wrong, I just think it all comes down to how you feel running, do what feels comfortable to you :D

  • I had such sore knees in week 2 after following Laura's heel strike advice that it took me 2 weeks to recover ☹️ In the meantime I read Danny Dreyer's book on Chi Running, which recommends landing mid foot and gives lots of other useful advice. I've started the C25K again and no knee pain so far!

  • I can fully recommend reading Chi Running....and then practice it😊

  • Hm, think I'll have a look at that!

  • Another mid-footer here - I've never been able to run previously because I thought you had to heel-strike and I just couldn't do it, it was really uncomfortable and I always ended up with shin splints. Last year my sister told me mid-foot was advised and what a revelation, I can run! Now on week 9 with not a hint of a splint. I do breathe through my nose because it comes naturally (until I start getting out of breath) but I ignored the advice about counting because trying to make the breath last a certain length makes me feel like I can't breathe at all. The funny thing was, after I'd been running a few weeks I realised I was actually breathing in the pattern that had been recommended, it just happened on its own! Very interesting and useful thread, thanks 😊

  • I found the same with breathing. If I try to artificially breathe to a rhythm I find it harder and constricting but noticed when I get more out of breathe I fall into the two in, two out on steps breathing pattern naturally... very odd or perhaps not so odd that this clunky old machine of mine actually knows what to do :)

  • I went on an Alexandra technique natural running workshop a few months ago. Its aim was to reduce heel strike, although it didn't address this by focusing directly on how you strike. It focused on how you use your eyes, head, arms, cadence, posture, thought processes, and the end result was getting you to run more softly. Of the 5 of us doing it, I was the only one who was not heel striking at the start; the other 4 changed somewhat during the workshop with noticeable improvements in speed. I have subsequently changed my shoes from Brooks adrenaline to Brooks pure cadence for a less built up heel that still has pronation support. It took a few weeks to adjust but am happy now. I really don't think forcing a change in strike is likely to be helpful, but getting some help on the overall biomechanics of the rest of your body might be. Basically your feet follow rather than lead.

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