It is estimated that 40 million Americans participate in some form of running on a regular basis. From this population, it is reported that between 50-70% suffer from a running related injury (Cook). The number one cause of these injuries is improper running technique, and the heel strike is the movement most noted for its harmful effects on the entire body. The heel strike occurs as the heel of the foot hits the ground and sends shockwaves all the way from the heel up the body until it is finally absorbed by the spine. This leads to the lower back pain that can sometimes be associated with running. This style of running also leads to tendon strains, stress factures, and plantar fasciitis (heel spurs). If your foot flattens or becomes unstable during critical times in the walking or running cycle, the attachment of the plantar fascia into your heel bone may begin to stretch and pull away from the heel bone. This will result in pain and possibly swelling. Since this movement stretches the already inflamed portion of the fascia. Without treatment the pain will usually spread around the heel. The pain is usually centered at a location just in front of the heel toward the arch. Fixing this problem is an easy process; it starts with returning the body to a natural running pattern. Focusing on placing the entire foot on the ground instead of just the heel is the ideal way to break this habit.

Some quick points to remember about Heel Strikes:

  • It is the landing of the heel first then moving to the toe while running.
  • They can lead to multiple injuries.
  • They can be corrected with proper footwear (ideally a well designed running shoe).
  • Focus on landing each stride with the entire foot or toes to better absorb the impact force from the ground.
  • Keep running correctly and keep living an injury free healthy life.

Cook, Stephen (2000). Running Shoes and Sports Injuries. Retrieved July 31, 2008, from Running Shoes And Sports Injuries

Author: Brad Longazel, MS, CSCS, USAW Along with personal training, Brad has worked in physical therapy clinics as well as strength and conditioning facilities. He holds certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is recognized as an Olympic weight-lifting coach by the U.S. Weightlifting Association. Brad earned a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Louisville.