Can you change your running style and your foot-strike?

I’ll start this post with a quote from a recent New York Times article  that  I referenced on April 5th in this post: So what does barefoot running do for you?  “Proponents [of barefoot running] say barefoot running is more natural — humans evolved to run without shoes — and economical. When you lift a shod foot, you have to lift the weight of the shoe, and that requires energy. Added to that effort is the cushioning in shoes, which absorbs energy that should go into propelling you forward.”  Proponents of barefoot running also point out that a mid-foot or forefoot strike more evenly distributes the force of the strike throughout the foot structure instead of directing the force up from the heel to the knee and hip joints.

This is what makes barefoot or minimalist running so interesting and so compelling – because it forces your running style into one that is more natural, probably more efficient, and one that helps protect you from injury.  But it is important to keep in mind that the gain comes from the type of foot strike that you will naturally move toward with barefoot running and the bio-mechanics that occur when you run barefoot or with minimalist shoes.  Another way to think about it is that you will be more likely to prevent all of the possible bad effects of a heel-strike if you change to a fore-foot or mid-foot strike.   So why not just change your running style to accomplish these goals?

Good news:  you can – and you don’t even have to change shoes to do it (more on that later)

Bad news:  you have to be careful changing your style so that you don’t injure yourself in the process, you need to do it rather slowly over time to allow your body to adapt, you are going to get sore in the process, if you’ve been running (with a heel-strike) for some time, you will most likely have to retrain yourself and you’ll find that as you get more fatigued, you will probably fall back into more of a heel-strike.

The best news of all is if you are new to running.  If you start your running “career” by incorporating some barefoot running into your routine or with minimalist shoes, your style will naturally evolve to more of a fore-foot or mid-foot style.  By being careful and conscious when you do run in conventional shoes you will be able to feel when you are shifting toward more of a heel strike.

Unfortunately, if you are an established runner it’s a more difficult task – and that deserves a post of it’s own, and we’ll look at that in one of the next posts.

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