Wednesday, December 31, 2014

To Heel Strike or Not to Heel Strike....Is this really a question?

The "barefoot running movement" seemed to go as quickly as it came on.  Vibram Five Finger shoes were all the rage with many companies doing anything they could to get a shoe out there that mimicked the five finger barefoot shoe and cash in on the movement.  People bought these shoes and they were used from just walking around and daily work to going and trying to put all of your weekly mileage on.  This is where people ran into trouble and injury.  But first a little back ground.

Wearing basically any shoe on a daily basis is like wearing a miniature high heel (even the guys).  There is so much elevation and cushion in the back of your shoe with the heel protection and cushion that it is raising your calcaneus significantly higher than it needs to be (we are talking mm or a cm here) and shortens the entire heel cord which results in changes in your entire posterior chain.  Now this change starts early. As Kelly Starrett has mentioned it, most kids run completely natural up until 1st grade when all the sudden it changes and they are in bigger, cushioned shoes and they begin to heel strike and walk around in these shoes.  This is the start of a long process of being in cushioned shoes for most of your life.

So what's wrong with heel striking?  If you picture running as almost low amplitude-high paced jumping you can start to see why heel striking could be so terrible for you.  Your goal with running should be to spend as little time on the ground with each step as possible and use the dynamic ability of your body (i.e. your muscles) to propel you forward.  When we heel strike we are slamming our heel/foot into the ground and increasing our ground time.  When we do this we take all the brunt of that force through the static tissue of our body (i.e. our bones) and we end up with "shin splints" and progress on to joint damage or stress fractures.  The amount of force your body must endure when running is at least 4x your body weight and if you aren't using your dynamic structures you're just asking for injury.

The good news is fixing can be easy.  All it takes is practice and re-learning to run.  Running is a skill just like anything else we learn to do so take the time to practice.  First thing is get a pair of shoes that will allow your heel cord to be at its normal length all day.  A shoe with no more than a 4mm drop (heel to toe) is ideal, the flatter the better.  These shoes will also make running on your "forefoot" feel much easier when a big cushioned heel isn't in your way.

See more below:

The best method I've found for changing your running form is the "Pose Method".  They advocate your starting position be an "S" position.  This requires your to be up on your toes, knees slightly flexed, and very mild hip flexion (see image).  This allows all your muscles (dynamic structures) to
come into play and help absorb a significant portion of the shock that goes through your body when you run.  From there they recommend letting gravity pull you forward as you begin to run and eliminating all hip drive (fyi: for general running, this doesn't work perfectly for sprinters) and using your hamstrings to cycle over your lower legs to keep you moving forward.  This new form should take you from "thud, thud, thud" when you were heel striking to "tap, tap, tap" by landing on the forefoot/ball of your foot with this new method.

You will be sore after your first times trying this because it is new.  Start practicing this new technique by just doing 10% of your normal running and increase by that 10% each week to avoid over doing something new to your body.  Check out the video below of the change the Pose Method can bring to your running style and happy running.

This is just a very basic idea of how to change your running style.  Often times there are many other areas that need work or refining before all this goes extremely well.  If you have any questions please email us at

Note: I do not know the specifics of the case but from what I understand Vibram settled in order to not go through with the long term ordeal of a trial, they did not officially admit guilt in making false claims.  I believe they did not make false claims and if are at fault for anything is not explaining the use of their product and the gradual change you would need in order to see the benefits.  I think they offer a fantastic product and it can be very beneficial if used properly.