In my last blog, I explained the basics of foot striking and why a heel strike can hold you back from achieving your best running times. Now, let’s look at the most common mistakes people make when trying to change their running technique and how you can avoid them.
Don’t just change your foot strike
Imagine a line drawn vertically down the side of your body as you run, with your hip as the centre point. A heel striker’s foot usually strikes the ground ahead of this line, after which they drag themselves forward, with the foot rolling beneath them before they push off with their toe.
On the other hand, if your foot strikes beneath that line, it becomes very difficult to strike with your heel, making you naturally inclined to strike with your mid or forefoot. That’s why your first priority isn’t actually changing your foot strike but changing your running technique and posture – foot striking is more of a side effect of a proper running technique rather than the main ingredient.
If you imagine that line again it becomes easy to see why. If you simply decide to start striking with your forefoot but still position the striking point ahead of your hip line you end up with a highly unnatural running technique that puts far too much load on your muscles, joints and tendons.
Common injuries from a poor running technique include damaged Achilles tendons, forefoot fractures and calf tears. Get any one of these and it doesn’t matter where your foot strikes, because you definitely won’t be running.
Don’t resume your usual running routine
Even if you’re a highly trained runner who can keep going for hours on end, you need to be very careful if you’re attempting a new technique.
Remember that each type of foot strike puts different loads on different muscles, joints and tendons. Even if you’re fit and active, you’ll easily injure yourself if you underestimate the stress that your body is going to be put through.
You need to act like it’s your first time running all over again. Start with a cycle of 30 seconds using your new technique followed by a minute of your usual running, gradually extending those 30 seconds as your proficiency improves.
Don’t attempt to change everything at once
Running is a natural human movement, it’s not something we think about when we’re doing it. This makes changing your running technique a slow process that requires active effort, you can’t simply decide to change it one day and expect results.
There are many components to the ideal running technique, including posture, your foot strike and keeping your foot in line with your hips. Tackling all of them at once is simply too much for your brain to handle, not to mention your body, so it’s best to focus on one at a time for a couple of weeks until you’re confident enough to move to the next stage.
So, when you’re doing the interval training mentioned above, you should only be working on one aspect of your new technique at a time. How long it takes to be running confidently and comfortably with your new technique varies from person to person, but generally you should expect three to six months of training.
Don’t do anything before consulting a professional
Changing your running technique is a difficult and time consuming task with many potential risks of injury. Professional guidance is essential to achieve healthy change at the right pace and to warn you of any physical issues that could complicate your progress.
At West London Physiotherapy, we provide running performance clinics that can be tailored to your needs, whether you want a health check up, gait analysis and advice to get you started, or ongoing, one-to-one training to guide you every step of the way.
Click here or call 020 7937 1628 to book your appointment today.
If you have any questions about your running technique, feel free to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0207 937 1628.
Kam Sowman BSc (Physio) MCSP MHCP
Musculoskeletal and Sports Physiotherapist
For any other questions regarding this topic please do not hesitate to contact me at West London Physio on 0207 937 1628 or email email@example.com