Couch to 5K
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Heel down first??? Are you sure?

Hello everyone! I'm new ish and started week 2 last week. I was out of breath in week 1 but couldn't wait to get started on week 2!

Well, W2R1 was done and I noticed that my fitness had improved and the 90 second runs were maybe even easier than the previous week. I was super chuffed with this and started to see myself actually getting through the whole 9 weeks and beyond!

However, Laura mentions on the podcast to make sure your strike the ground with your heel first as it reduces risk of injury.

I tried this and at the time it felt like hard work but I did it anyway. Half way through my I was in agony with my legs feeling like they were on fire and pains shooting through my knees! I carried on as I thought it was all part of it :-(

I have not been able to run since. In fact I can barely walk. I can't carry anything more than a handbag as the extra weight sends my knees into agony.

I have pain radiating from my lower back down to my ankles and it's constant.

To cut to the chase, I have since spoken to many friends of mine who have run for years and they all say taht hitting the ground with your heel uis the worst thing you can do and it's no wonder ive done myself an injury.

I also Googled for info and it's the general consensus their too that Heel to ground is a BAD idea.

Anyway, Ive not posted to bad-mouth Laura as I think her podcasts are great, I just need more info on this and I want people to realise it might not be the way forward.

Can anyone give me anymore info on this and also can anyone tell me why Lauras thinks that heel to ground is the way to avoid injury? I was loving running and I want to get back onto it asap but I cant even walk atmm :-(

Thanks everyone xx

24 Replies

This probably won't help, but during the Olympics I noticed non of the runners landed on their heels.

I ignored Laura's advice on this one, maybe I'm not running correctly - but I'm on week 7 and i haven't injured myself yet.


W2R3 yesterday and I paid particular attention to landing on my heels. By the end I was quite achey on my right shin and it lasted most of the day, gone now. I looked online too but there's always just too much info there. I reckon tomorrow I'll concentrate on just landing 'straight' ie not on the outside or the inside of my foot, instead of actively tryng to pull my toes up to get a heel strike.

Interesting to hear about the olympic runners, and I'll be very Interested to hear what the experienced runners think on this one.


I Agee, I run in a way that feels natural to me. Same with the breathing; if I were to breath through just my nose I would suffocate!!


Yes, I remember that bit from week 2. I think I just ignored it too. I always thought mid-foot strike was meant to be the right way to do it?!

In fact, Eddie Izzard was on BBC Breakfast this morning and I'm sure he mentioned not landing on your heal but using the 'Barefoot' running technique (only minus the barefoot bit) to avoid injury. Might be worth googling this?

Hope you feel better soon and don't feel too put off. 99.9% of Couch to 5K is amazing and works brilliantly, so worth just ignoring one comment if you think it best :-)


Could someone who lives in the uk maybe google about Eddie Izzard on BBC Breakfast and let us ex-pats know what he said - it won't play here. I reckon if he did 43 marathons in 51 days he must know how to run! Thanks!


I'm on it Mitts! Where are you btw?


Switzerland. But I find nice flat bits to run on :-)


Hi Mitts,

Just had a go at finding it for you but no luck, sorry. All the BBC news broadcasts on iplayer just say 'not availabe'. Maybe someone a little more internet savy could have a go?!

I would look into barefoot running technique as well though because that was what he was advocating to avoid injury and involves landing with a midfoot strike rather than heal. Found you this website about it: barefootrunning.fas.harvard... (sorry don't know how to create a hyperlink in this thread :-/ ) Hope it helps though!


Oh OK the hyperlink worked automatically :-)


Thanks everyone. So I guess we should do whatever comes naturally. Not sure I fancy barefoot though! But look at these:

I read quite recently on another blog about an American woman who ran in these to get fit and lose weight. She swore by them but I think I'll stick to my shoes - they were fine till I started worrying about heel strikes.


From what I've found he is basically saying that bare foot running is the way we were born to run and that shoes really don't aid us at all. He also runs in shoes called VivoBarefoot and VFF's which are said to be as close to barefoot you can get without actually having no shoes on!


Firstly I can't believe I spelled heal wrong! Dreadful.

Secondly, thanks for your replies guys, I'll wait for my legs to stop hurting so much and chance another one!

I have 2 friends who are pro runners and it was them that said it was ridiculous advice to land on the heal first. They said that it is akin to jumping in the air and landing on your heal - and who would do this? They also said that the make-up of the body dictates that toes are for accelerating and heals for braking. One of them said she never uses her heal unless she is using it for stability going down steep hills.

This pain feels like it's a trapped nerve or something? I'm no doctor but its not muscular for sure. I wondering if the heal strike impact has hurt my back. Ho hum.

Continued success to you all x


Oh my god. 'Heel' was the correct spelling in the first place! Wtf is wrong with me!!?? I'll say no more on this!


You've set me off Googling !!

There are lots of different and conflicting views on it - I've been following Laura's technique without any undue aches and pains but, as an over-pronator, I do have fairly cushioned shoes so perhaps that makes a difference. I've read in several sources that heel-strike running tends to happen at lower speeds so perhaps that's one reason why I'm so slow !

Here's one view that's easy to follow as it doesn't get too technical - I'm thinking of trying out their advice:

...back to more research :-)


I must admit I had forgotten all about the messing about I did when I did C25K for the first time. When I heard Laura saying heel to strike the ground first I tried to adapt my running action. The result was I over flexed my feet and ended up with very painful shins simply because I was liftng my toes too high. When the pain had subsided I went back to what comes naturally to me. Which varies depending on the speed my running.

1. If I'm trying to go further and faster I lengthen my stride which gives the result of my heel hitting the ground first but only marginally.

2. If I'm running uphill, I'm slower (for obvious reasons) but tend to shorten my stride which results in a flatter foot fall.

3.If I'm cruising along on the flat (longer run conserving energy) my stride is slightly longer than my uphill stride with mid foot hitting the ground first.

I haven't worked at any of these techniques they are just what I do with comfort (naturally) so the next time you guys are out take time to analyse your footfall you may be surprised as I was. Hope this helps justkeepgoing and that the pain settles down very soon for you.


During week three I started getting really bad cramp in the muscle on the outer side of my right shin (tibialis anterior), so badly that when doing week 4 runs I just couldn't complete them. When I did some research online it indicated that the muscle that was cramping was the one involved during dorsiflexion of the foot, which you do when heel striking. So after reading this I decided to try changing my foot strike and it worked, although I have only done 4 runs using the mid/forefoot strike so only time will tell but would definitely recommend giving it a go if you are having problems.


I was thinking exactly this, so thanks everyone for the discussion and links. I saw the Eddie Izzard interview and he basically said that he prefers the barefoot running technique of not landing on your heel as it helps prevent injury, although obviously he does still wear shoes.

I think there must be different styles of running and it's up to you what works best for you. Definitely don't land on your heel if it's causing so much pain, ouch, poor you!

I was chatting to someone the other day about the Olympics and they said people always used to run in simple shoes until Nike came along an invented trainers to help prevent injuries...but actually wearing trainers makes your feet weaker, so people started getting more injuries as a result! And trainer companies are aware of this apparently...hmmm.

Here's an interesting article which mentions this and barefoot running:


I used to run about five years ago and was constantly suffering from lower back pain which caused me to give up running altogether. Having put a bit of weight on I decided to try the Couch to 5k programme. The first week I could feel a twinge in my back and when I heard Laura say strike the ground with your heel first i thought I would try it. I have just completed Week nine (must apply for my graduate badge!) and although I suffer with tight calf muscles which I believe is caused by holding my toes up too high, I can now run with no lower back pain. Thanks Laura!


I always put my heel down first and have been fine but i did notice the olympians don't, It may be that your body will get use to it as the weeks go by as in the begining i did suffer from various knee, leg pain but put it down to the fact i had not excercised for a very long time.


I had problems when it came to week 2 as well. Tried the heel strike technique but was aware something wasn't right pretty much straight away. Carried on with week 2 and did first run of week 3 then took a bit of time off due to shin splints as it was just too sore (had thought I could run through it but couldn't). Got good advice on this forum which I followed , i.e. get running gait analysis done and make sure your trainers are right for you. Needless to say I had to buy a new pair! Went back and did one each of week 1 run and week 2 run and just took it very, very slowly and concentrated on not slapping my feet on the ground and just went back to my old running technique (if you can call it that!) of striking mid foot. So although it was a pain having to rest for a week or so it was worth it and now I've just completed week 4, albeit very slowly. Hope this rambling reply helps!


Hi, I did what Laura said to do as well but my legs started to feel really heavy, my knees hurt and it just wasn't all!! I watched the programme 'the truth about sports products' and i started googling barefoot running. I've read so many articles, watched loads of videos and also read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and I now never heel strike, I midfoot or forefoot strike, usually midfoot and I wear a pair of New Balance Minimus which are soo comfy and I've never looked back, I love my runs, could run all takes a while to get your ankles and muscles to strengthen up so you have to go slow with your training but it's amazing, really can't recommend it enough...I'm even thinking about purchasing some huaraches from, I also have a pair of Vibram FiveFingers and they are THE most comfiest thing, I love running in them.


What an amazingly supportive, friendly bunch of people us runners are.

Thanks SO much everyone for taking the time to try and help me. I'm still too sore to run but I think it's getting less each day. I can not wait to get out and about again either! Running really is amazing eh? Thanks again all and I'll keep you informed :-) xx


I was wondering myself whether I had heard right in the podcast that I should run heel first. So your thread has reassured my poor memory!

I don't know if it helps, but since running heel strike I had terrible trouble with shin splints and recently knee pain too. With some research (thank goodness for the internet) I found lots of information on a shorter stride giving less impact, and landing mid foot too. I've been trying it this week and its so much easier on my joints. I am about 3 stone overweight, which means my poor joints will suffer a bit anyway, but the new style is much easier. I hope you recover soon and are able to run without pain! :-)


Maybe someone can remember this better than me, but whilst in the beginning Laura does say land on your heel, she does say about week 5 or 6 to land mid foot so I wonder whether it is a mistake on the podcast (yesterday, on week 8 she told me to stop running one minute before my time was up - she's a teaser!).

If it causes pain, don't do it, is my advice.


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