If you’ve ever spent an inordinate amount of money after running a race to purchase pictures of yourself taken on the course, you’ve probably noticed shots of yourself landing heel first, ankle slightly flexed as your foot approaches the ground.
That’s, at least, if you’re one of the over 90 percent of all runners (including a significant portion of elite runners!) who heel strike.
As common as it is, heel striking gets a bad rap. Proponents of barefoot running and fans of Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run book and philosophy often argue that landing heel first puts runners at greater risk of injury, and that it’s less efficient. This idea has made its way onto runfluencer social media, where switching from a heel strike to a mid or forefoot strike is sometimes presented as being as simple as just flipping a switch. (Spoiler alert: It’s not.) There are even shoes that claim to promote forefoot striking.
But can something that comes naturally to more than 90 percent of all runners really be that bad?
Why we heel strike
The difference between a heel-striker and a forefoot-striker isn’t just which part of the foot touches the ground first. Where you land on your foot actually d