Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is heel striking bad?

This was a question someone asked me yesterday. I know there's a lot of discussion recently around heel striking but the easy answer is "yes," but that's not the complete answer. The answer is "how do you run naturally?" And, if you run naturally one way, and a different way wearing shoes, then that's bad. So what is running naturally? Well, I'd argue that when we are barefoot, we are in our natural state. We were born to run without Nike's correct? And we have ancestors that lived barefoot. In fact, shoes were developed to address issues with weather and terrain so if you negate those impacts and have excellent weather and save terrain, natural running would be barefoot running.

Ok, now that we've established that, how do you land while barefoot? If you naturally land with a heel strike and there's no impacts in terms of injury or pain, then I would answer that "heel striking is not bad" at least for you. However, you likely land differently while barefoot vs. shod and if that's the case and if the difference is you land forefoot or mid-foot while barefoot but heel strike in shoes, then "yes, heel striking is bad."

With that said, I've come across runners that do heel strike while barefoot and Dr. Lieberman found runners in Kenya that did just that although he said they were rare (basically outliers). So if you are a outlier, then heel striking may be natural to you although it's likely such folks land very lightly thus reducing the impact forces at landing.

So what's the point? The point is let's stop with starting the conversation with foot strike and simply ask "how do we run naturally." Shouldn't our goal be to run naturally as that is how we were designed. Of course if you believe the human body is flawed by design then this means nothing to you but I certainly believe the human body is one of my most incredibly designed devices in the world.

What's your position?


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