Foot Placement or Foot Strike?

In today’s blog post I want to share a comment I heard a few weeks ago, made originally by another coach. The annoying thing is, I can’t remember who originally said it!

The coach made the valid point that across the running community, including coaches, the media, clubs and the scientific community, it could be argued that we’re all using a bad piece of every-day running terminology. A piece of bad terminology which reinforces a big element of poor and destructive running form. I’m as guilty as anyone of using this particular term 🙂

I’m talking about the term: Foot Strike.

Google the verb “strike” and it comes back with the following definition: “to hit forcibly and deliberately

Now, there will be many who will say I’m simply arguing over semantics, of course.

However as a coaching cue, telling an athlete to think about actively placing their foot on the ground with control will fundamentally change their running gait, compared to allowing the foot to strike the ground heavily without control. Try it!

Perhaps we should all start saying Foot Placement instead?

Running is clearly a high-impact sport. Being the technique geek I am, I’m always helping runners to improve their form in order to reduce unnecessary loading where possible. What I don’t want to see in a runner is a big, heavy, forceful strike, every time the foot hits the ground. Learning to place the foot gently is a hugely important skill for any runner to learn

What’s In a Name?

Thinking about the big differences a piece of seemingly small terminology like this can make, got me to thinking about other ways in which terminology like this lets us down across the running community as a whole.

A good example of this is a feature of many running shoes: the Crash Pad, found in the heel of the shoe design. No prizes for guessing what this is designed to do.

The last thing, as a coach, I want runners visualising is their heels crashing into the ground. If I see this obvious ‘crashing‘ in a runner’s form, I know we have lots of work to do…!

Feel The Difference!

Next time you go for a run, try thinking about how it actually feels as your feet make contact with the ground. By manipulating elements of your running form such as increasing cadence, reducing contact time and improving posture, you should notice your feel coming down to the ground more gently underneath you.

You might also notice a difference in the sound they make every time your foot is placed the ground beneath you. This auditory feedback can provide an excellent cue to listen out for as you run. The moment your running sounds too heavy, it probably is!

Once you feel as if you’re improving the quality of the contact under your feet, contrast this against your ‘old technique‘, by allowing yourself to slip back into old ways for a few strides…

As you make this contrast you should feel a definite sensation of striking the ground, in comparison to the light and slightly quicker sensation of placing the foot on the ground.

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