Heel first or ball first?

This is probably a question that has been asked to death on here, so I'm sorry if this is an annoying post!

I'm now on W2R3 (still loving it, still suspicious that this can't possibly result in me running for 30 mins). At the start of the week 2 podcast, Laura says that my heel should be hitting the ground first when I run to reduce injury. However I have read in other places that I should be aiming for the ball first or mid foot first gait as it is better for the knees and other joints.

When I run ball first I feel a bit lighter on my feet, as when I run heel first I feel very 'galumphy' (if that makes sense!). I remember someone telling e years ago that I should try running ball first rather than heel first and it instantly felt better. However, if it's gonna cause problems then that's the last thing that i want!!

How do you run? Does it make any difference? Should I try and alter my stride and start running heel first? Any thought appreciated.

13 Replies

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  • You know, on the treadmill I land on my midfoot (which I have heard is 'proper' running form - but don't quote me on that!) but on the road I land on my heel and I also feel 'galumphy'! I much prefer landing on my midfoot/ball and have noticed no problems yet (I'm a week ahead of you).

  • This is the only piece of bad advice that Laura gives, striking mid foot is what most people say to do to avoid injury.

  • Take your shoes off and run. You will find that you don't naturally land on your heel. This is because the impact is very damaging and can lead to serious injury such as shin splints or even stress fractures . I have suffered from shin splints and its very painful. Changing my running from has all but cured the problem.

  • Worst advice I've been given anywhere was the Podcast with Laura saying heel strike on week two. I've just had to repeat it as i couldn't run last week because of knee pain, I was really annoyed :( I know everyone is different but almost eberything you read on heel striking says it's bad for you and I totally agree. As I'm writing this I've just taken some more brufen as my knee is still sore GGGRRR !!!!

    Went out yesterday as my knee seemed fine and didn't think about my feet, just walked/jogged as I was doing previous and it was much better, I seem to land mid foot.

    By landing on your heel as she suggested you are jolting your knees and in effect braking :-/

  • Agree with all the above. Here's a good article in case you haven't seen it yet:

    livestrong.com/article/1890...

  • Glad to see this discussion - I was going to start it.. I am about to do W2R1 and discovered there is a huge debate on this when I started reading up on basic technique. A lot of people seem to say it is a lot of effort to change your running style from heelstrike to ball-of-foot, so I thought it would be better for me as a beginner to learn the right way from the beginning... but then it opens up a whole world of technique and having to think about the process when, to me, the beauty of C25K is that it just says: go out and run: don't think too much about it, don't procrastinate, just get your traimners on and start...

    Also, the only other time I have ever done any running was when I managed to sustain about 6 months of gym-going about 8 years ago - at the end of it I had sore knee joints from the treadmill runs I was doing... I am already feeling my knee joints to be a little tender just on week 2!

    For me the question is: as a beginner, should I consider minimalist running shoes and/or some coaching in pose/BOF/whatever-you-want-to-call-it running? Or is it just overkill and should I turn to this if I manage to get to 5K (8 weeks away!)

  • Hi MM, I'm just about to start W9 and have researched all this stuff because i have bad heel spurs. Basically ignore all that pose running stuff, it's more money spinning hype and research is showing more injuries as a result. Also, on the barefoot running thing, it's relatively new and there is no definite body of proper research that has caught up with BF yet so all the professional orthpods and physios etc don't seem to be saying anything exact either. A lot of material supports the hype but i would say wait a while until you know your running style etc. As for running style, keep it loose and simple, easy mid strike,, feet comfortable and stride not too long, basically keeping your stride easy and knees a little bent. Just enjoy it and don't be tempted to tire the whole thing up in knots like i did. Now I'm back to my simple W1 and W2 running style and it is so much more comfortable and enjoyable. Obviously everyone had individual needs, all I'm saying is keep it simple :-). Sorry if I've rambled on and i hope this had helped a little, Sara :-)

  • Useful comments thanks. I did W2R2 last night and just tried to run, as you say, simply, although I tried to keep my pace shorter and take more steps rather than stretch forwards. It was pretty comfortable and I enjoyed it more that W1R3 - which was only Saturday afternoon... I'm not going to think about it too much unless the knees come back to haunt me...

    (Oh and I saw your other post - I think it sounds great to get stuck on a train to the Czech Republic with a nice glass of vino - made me remember my Interrailing days with a pang of jealousy!)

  • NHS Choices do not recommend landing with the heel. On their page 'How to run correctly' they say this.

    "Aim for a mid-foot strike

    Landing on the middle of your foot is the safest way to land for most recreational runners. Avoid striking the ground with your heel or your forefoot first. Your foot should land below your hips – not out in front of you."

    This is the link to relevant page -

    nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/...

    I hope if they ever re-do the podcasts they take that bit of advice out :-(

  • Thanks everyone, I thought it seemed like slightly odd advice! I shall carry on as I have been doing, trying to strike with the middle of my foot.

    Cheers all! x

  • I used to run track when I was in high school (grew up in the US). I was a sprinter. Sprinters run on their toes. Their shoes do not have any proper soles beyond the balls of the feet, where there are spikes for extra grip. All other runners land on their feet, not their toes.

  • Perhaps it depends how much running you have done - I'm wondering this. I started in walking boots, hadn't owned a pair of trainers or done any kind of fitness thing for decades and I only bought minimalist because they were the most ethical thing I could find. No injuries in 10 months of running despite being ill and unfit. I've just spent a lot of money on trail shoes and on first outing I hate them, they *make* me pronate, I was practically knock kneed and they feel terribly stiff. When I got my first pair of running shoes it felt so wonderful, these are like lead. Obviously I am going to try again with them and fortunately I can exchange them. At the shop on the treadmill they were asking me to put my heel down first and it didn't feel right.

  • Thankyou so much for asking this question. I was just out today doing the postgraduate Speed run and thinking to myself (even after 6 months of running) "Is it really better heel first?". I always had my doubts but didn't want to disbelieve Laura. After all she's seen me through from gasping at 15 seconds to running for over 45 minutes. All the way through I've tried heel striking but it seems so unnatural. I have to think about it, whereas in the first week I shambled along on the ball/midfoot. So, thankyou again. I'm going to look up all those links above and see about running differently.