Close to 80% of the runners I see run with a heel strike. Heel striking almost always results in excessive ground impact forces on your body and joints which results in injuries PLUS a braking force which slows you down with every step. Fortunately, the solution can be fairly simple.
Why heel striking can be harmful?
The cause of higher ground impact forces is mostly a result of where your foot lands in relation to your center of mass (hips). The farther out in front your foot lands, the higher the impact. When you heel strike, your foot almost always lands too far out in front of your hips. Again, the result is not only higher impact on your joints but a braking force that slows you down when you run.
What’s the solution?
For every runner, the solution is dependent on many variables and everyone is different. This is why we offer Online Technique Analysis to give you the solution to prevent this high impact way of running.
However, for many runners this simple tip can help. Running with a higher cadence (steps per minute) can help prevent over striding thus reducing heel striking and high ground impact and braking forces to your body.
What is high cadence?
Finding your optimal cadence depends on many variables and the individual runner. In general, the shorter you are (or more accurately the shorter your legs are), the higher your cadence is relative to other runners. Most runners have an optimal cadence of 170-180 steps per minute which will slightly vary with your running pace.
How to practice higher cadence?
The focus is to SHORTEN your stride, not to run faster. Be sure to open up your stride BEHIND you and not out in front of you. You can download a metronome app on your phone or many GPS watches nowadays have cadence features. Play with your cadence shooting for around 170-180 steps per minute. At first, it may feel awkward and like you are taking short steps, but this will feel better and very beneficial after some practice. Over time, you’ll notice less impact on your joints, faster recovery and a quicker pace with more ease.
Coach Damian Stoy