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Heel strike, good or not?

Until a little while ago, whenever I saw an athlete running with a heel strike, I couldn't help but call out to him and encourage him to change the way he puts his foot on the ground. But in the end, is this really necessary for every runner?

The question of heel versus midfoot attack has been debated for years. But wouldn't it be better to ask another question such as: "Is the foot correctly positioned below the center of gravity? »

Center of gravity of the body, where is it located?

Often described as being located at the belly botton, it is not so correct. Indeed, the center of gravity in men and women has been found to be at different heights. In men it is present at 57% of its height from the soles of the feet, while in women it is about 53% of its height. (Magazine science et vie). Depending on the movements made, knowing the position of the center of gravity becomes a determining factor in knowing the point of stability of the object or person.

What's the ideal stride?

An ideal stride can be described as the efficient stride that allows a person to run for a long time with a minimum level of effort. The more energy is transmitted in the forward movement, the less it is necessary to draw on one's reserves to compensate for the loss of efficiency (Véronique Champagne).

Photo: sport-equipment

Since we are not robots, the stride will depend on several factors that are interesting to take into consideration when studying or analyzing the stride. We all have different lifestyles: working standing vs. sitting all day long, new runners vs. experienced runners, people with past injuries vs. never injured, women with low births vs. caesarean sections, etc. etc. etc. All of these factors will contribute to a different posture for different people and should be taken into account to avoid negative effects.

In spite of this and for everyone, the stride allows a restitution of energy and thus propels the body forward like a catapult with each foot on the ground. If you are on the starting line of a marathon, it is preferable to save as much energy as possible to see the finish line without injury or pain and without direct negative impact on your performance. In addition, having an ideal stride, an ideal posture without unnecessary rotation or swinging of the upper body, will undoubtedly provide you with much more enjoyable running outings.

Race pace: How to be the most efficient?

To improve his or her running technique, the number of steps per minute should be close to 180 (+/- 10 steps per minute).  This cadence will also determine the cycle of front and back legs. Indeed, small steps very close together will prevent a "complete" leg cycle because the back leg will not have time to climb high enough under the buttock. On the other hand, strides that are too big will have a great chance of generating a negative heel attack because they are too far forward of the center of gravity.

Photo: Running Heroes

Heel strike below the center of gravity should it be modified?

When running, the foot on the ground is obviously closely watched by many scientists in order to devalue the perfect stride. Do you think that Eliud Kipchoge (marathon record holder) or Usain bolt (100m record holder) are the perfect examples and examples to follow? Every runner is different so when an analysis is made it is essential to look at the runner from head to toes and not at individual body segments.

From my personal point of view, it is not necessary to change a heel strike if it is correctly positioned under the center of gravity since the energy restitution will be present.

Photo: Running addict

Heel strike in front of the centre of gravity, what can it cause?

In running we all agree that the goal is to go forward and not backward ;) So imagine for a moment that at each step, you come to hit an object. In addition to slowing you down and drawing on your energy reserves, this would push your body backwards and could lead to numerous injuries in the so-called rising chain (i.e. knees, hips, back or even cervical). This is exactly what happens to a runner whose stride presents a heel attack in front of the center of gravity. In this case, it is essential to work on your stride and modify the pose on the ground.

Photo :Drsport

Conclusion

Before changing the way you run, it is essential to discover your stride using a video system to change only certain points. Working with a coach who observes you and gives you advice is great, but it's also essential to see yourself in action to make it easier to change it later. This video analysis is available on the store via the Ochy application.

Perrine Evans

A former athlete and graduate in Sports Kinesiology from the University of Central Missouri (USA), I am passionate about biomechanical analysis of running and postural analysis.