Pounding the Pavement

Whether you are a consistent runner, an occasional runner, or the only running you do is to the couch after work every day, you know that the more you do it, the more likely is it that something is going to start hurting.  It may not be a serious injury – it could be something as simple as muscle soreness.  But, it is almost inevitable that at some point, something in your lower half will hurt to some to degree for an unspecified amount of time.  There’s no arguing that.  What many people argue about, however, is what running method is best at reducing the risk of injury.  Is it a heel-strike (heel touches ground first) or a toe-strike (toes touch ground first)?

The debate on heel vs. toe striking in running is as popular as what is best to eat the night before a long run.  And to be honest, it’s about as inconclusive as any other debate out there.  Just like in politics, there are individuals who sweat that they’re style of running is the correct way of doing it.  The majority of runners – by a staggering percentage – are heel-strikers.  Once you put shoes on, it is more natural for most people to strike their heel first, since that what most shoes encourage people to do.  But, is that really the best option?  An article in the NY Times suggests that it might not be as simple as a yes/no answer.

As with most things in life, there are two sides to every story.  This is no different.  Most research on running styles will show that, in general, heel-striking places more stress on the knees, while toe-striking places more stress on the ankles.  Since there is a MUCH higher percentage of runners who use the heel-strike method (and thus, much more research on this method) than the alternative, it is hard to come to any definite conclusion.  There is enough to determine that the stress sites are consistent between the two running techniques, but it is still unsure as to which, if either, method causes injuries at a higher rate, or is better at reducing the risk of injury.

Personally, I prefer the toe-strike style of running.  I used to be like the majority of runners and touch my heels down first.  After multiple annoying knee injuries, I decided to switch over.  It wasn’t pretty at first.  I had to do 1 minute intervals and tell myself each time I landed to stay on my toes.  Before too long, however, it became second nature.  To be honest, I love the switch.  I am now running longer, faster, and better than I ever was before.  I think it’s both a direct result of my running form – I feel it’s more the more efficient style of running – and an indirect result as I’ve been able to run more due to being healthier.

Again, this is my own personal experience.  I know that everybody has their own style, and reasons for running that way.  The solution is simple, and the same as everything else in the fitness world:  Find what works for you!!!  Don’t worry about what every one else is telling you.  What works for them may be the worst possible idea for you.  If you’re not happy with where you are, maybe a change is in order.  But, if you know what you’re doing and you’re happy with it, then keep it up!!!!  Either way, get out there on the road and get after it!!!

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