Why & How to Stop Heel Striking When You Run

Whether you’re fairly new in taking on the sport of running or a seasoned runner who has been running for many years, chances are you have experienced or will experience some sort of overuse injury. It’s an ongoing story as research shows that about 50% of runners are injured every year.

Heel Strike RunningRunning injuries can occur for different reasons from rotational forces and/or impact, friction, propulsive forces or all of the above.

One of the major causes in experiencing injuries as a runner is due to improper gait and running form. The primary culprit – heel striking.

The Top Five Injuries in Heel Strike Runners

1.  Plantar Fascitis

Painful condition in the arch tendon where it becomes inflamed. Excessive heel striking and impact along with friction of “starting and stopping” leads to straining this arch tendon and actually weakening the strength of the foot.

2.  Patellofemoral Syndrome (aka: Runner’s Knee)

This pain occurs when the patella does not track or move correctly when the knee is straightened or bent.  This can lead to the damaging of surrounding cartilage and tissue underneath the patella where it can be very painful.  Runner’s knee occurs due to heavy impact while running (again heel striking).

3.  Hip and Low Back Pain

Running inefficiently can place strain on the low back and hips. Heel striking can cause a reaction moving up through the kinetic chain in creating huge forces and impact from the joints, muscles, tissues, tendons of the knee, hips and low back.

4.  Calf and Achilles Strains

Pulling or straining a calf muscle and/or the achilles are caused by pushing off  hard every time a stride is taken. These injuries can also be acute if not properly warmed up or using excessive force early in a run. Calf and/or achilles strains and pulls can occur due to fatigued, overworked or over-trained legs.

5. IT Band Syndrome (Iliotibial Band Syndrome)

The IT Band is a very thick and fibrous tissue that attaches to the muscle at the top of the hip and runs down the outside of the thigh connecting to the tibia bone. This can be an extremely painful condition. In essence, the IT band becomes tight due to rotational forces from heel striking with the foot and knee tracking inward instead of straight on.

The Top Four Ways to Prevent Heel Striking Running Injuries

1.  Adopt a Natural Running Gait

The goal is to eliminate the heel strike completely by hitting mid foot with each stride while allowing the heel to settle.

2.  Wear Proper Footwear

low profile running shoeWearing a running shoe with a high heel which creates a high ramp angle sets your body up for disaster. Your body is already thrown out of balance placed into a tilted position with your hips being thrown forward and your back being arched before you even head out the door. Your body will compensate with each step you take in trying to get balanced. In addition, wearing a running shoe that is too cushy will prevent the foot from feeling the ground beneath them. Blocking the feel of the road will prevent the runner from teaching the body how to run naturally and efficiently. Hello injuries!

3.  Keep Your Feet Under Your Center of Mass

It is virtually impossible to heel strike if your feet land right below your center. The minute those feet land in front of your body, the chances of heel striking become far greater.

4.  Work with a (Natural) Running Coach

Seek assistance from a coach who is knowledgeable in helping you make a safe transition from a heel strike gait to a Natural Running gait. It is virtually impossible to drop the heel strike on your own without the help of a professional “eye.”

Running DrillsLooking to enjoy healthy running?
Get help from a Natural Running Coach who provides observations, helpful tips, practice drills and more. Amy can help make the transformation from heel striking to Natural Running less painful to keep you injury free for a lifetime as a runner.

Listen to how it has worked for other AVC Elite Runners.


Catalina Trail Running Love

On April 11, 2014 I completed the AVC Elite Training Trans Catalina 50K Trail Run for the 3rd time. This most recent time was the absolute best experience of all because I had such great recovery and wasn’t sore in the least – thanks to Amy’s training and coaching!

When I first learned we would be running the majority of the trails in training and in Catalina, I wasn’t sure just how much my body could do since I had never ran more than 5 miles at a time on a trail. Amy was fantastic in setting the weekly limits and pacing as we began the training and as it gradually increased we were all ready for it when April arrived. Surprisingly, running more of the trails helped to break up the muscle soreness that used to happen after just trekking the same distances.

Amy also spent a lot of time educating us on exactly what our bodies needed to do those extra long distances as far as electrolytes, nutrition, proper recovery, heart rate monitoring, not to mention all of the “home care” involvement such as foam rolling, massage, proper sleep, etc.

celebration catalina trail run successMost friends and family members that I have shared this experience with think I’m crazy to want to do such an extreme physical event.

They think I’m even crazier when I tell them I wasn’t sore and it wasn’t that hard. In fact, if it wasn’t for the unusually warm day, I could have gone even further.

But that’s not a testament to me by any means when I say it was easy. I give 100% of the credit to Amy for her coaching and pushing us farther than we ever thought we could go. Would I put this much work into something on my own? I doubt it.

Being part of such a fantastic group of people like the ones involved with AVC Elite Training made the experience fun and motivating. We all have so many funny stories about our experiences and encounters out on the trail this winter.

I will never forget when we were 19 miles in to a checkpoint and the water cooler was gone!  A bunch of us hung out, stretched. laughed and shared snacks and before we knew it there came our leader flying down the road in her Jeep to bring us water.

When I look back, I can see the real life Trail Run TRW Mesa AZchanging experiences happened during the entire journey and the weekly training.  I found joy in getting to know my best friend better as we talked for hours on the trail while receiving encouragement as Amy would pass us and tell us we were doing great.

The bonding and fun we had was wonderful as we shared Margarita Shot Blocks on the trail with friends. It was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment after every single Saturday in our training and then the “grand finale” in hitting the Trans Catalina Trail. Thanks Amy!
~ Chris K.

Do you share our love for trail running? Then stay tuned for an upcoming announcement on the next great AVE Elite Training program and you could star in the next fitness success story!

Minimizing the Risk for Piriformis Syndrome

A common disorder that often rear its’ ugly head for athletes is Piriformis Syndrome.

What is Piriformis Syndrome?

Piriformis SyndromeBasically, it is pain created by the piriformis muscle pressing on or into the sciatic nerve. Understanding the causes that lead to Piriformis Syndrome (PS)  is key to managing it and hopefully preventing it in the future.

The Cause of Piriformis Syndrome

The cause of PS basical falls into two categories – biomechanical inefficiencies or overload.

Biomechanical Inefficiencies

Basically, biomechanical inefficiencies relate to muscle imbalances within the body. These imbalances can be in flexibility and strength. They can also be due to faulty body mechanics or in gait disturbances (running or walking with your toes pointed out too far or in), in poor posture, or just how your body moves in general.

Other causes can include spinal issues, improper alignment, tight stiff muscles and or fascia in the low back, hips and buttocks.


Overload simply means the muscles were worked either too hard or too long without adequate rest and recovery. Below are common examples of overload in addition to some less obvious causes.

  • Going running after spending a few months sitting around, not doing much.
  • Increasing your mileage too quickly – even if you have been running consistently.
  • Increasing interval intensity aggressively – stressing your body when it wasn’t ready.
  • A spur-of-the-moment intense game of tennis or golf with little preparation.
  • Sitting for extended periods of time – whether at a desk, couch, driving or traveling via airplane.

In fact, any form of sitting for extended periods of time will shorten the piriformis muscle which in turn will place pressure on the sciatic nerve. Ouch!

There are other factors that can cause PS, but typically these are main reasons for this most uncomfortable and sometimes very painful conditiob.

PS foam rollingAVC Elite Training continually works on keeping muscles balanced, flexible and strong. In addition, proper recovery and rest is constantly stressed along with being responsible with good home care such as foam rolling.

Piriformis Syndrome doesn’t have to be your destiny if you train smart.

Patellofemoral Pain to 50K Feeling Great

When Amy first approached me about the 50k Catalina Island Run and Trek, I was both excited and skeptical. Running 31+ miles in one shot is really intense and frankly I never pictured myself running ultra distances. It wasn’t something that I felt appealed to me, but when Amy explained that she felt I could do it and that the training would get me in the best shape of my life, I was sold! (And let me say….boy was she right about getting into such incredible shape!)

Our very first training run we ran a “time out and back” run which ended up being for me 10 miles. Trail running in East Mesa AZThis was totally crazy since the longest distance I had ever run up to that day was a 5k! I couldn’t believe it when she told us how many miles we ran. From that moment, I was hooked to running especially on the trail. Amy’s constant reminders about proper running form along with all of the valuable and important information and guidance on hydration and nutrition set us up for success.

Then a glitch….About half way into our training season for Catalina I developed runner’s knee. Completing a run was becoming more and more difficult as the pain would hit and prevent me from completing my training runs. I thought for sure this was “the end” and I wasn’t going to be able to hit Catalina Island for my much anticipated 50K trail run.

Amy explained to me that this wasn’t the end, but that I would need to be very proactive in taking care of the issue at hand. She explained how I needed to be diligent about foam rolling my IT band, glutes, legs, etc… not just here and there, but constantly. She stressed this continually to all of us throughout our training emphasizing that we can’t get “lazy” in our home care and recovery and how this is just as important as putting in our training runs. I listened, but just didn’t think it pertained to me.

Soon, I got so tired of coping with this nagging runner’s knee and its hindering my training runs that I knew Running Catalina TrailsI had to do something so I began foam rolling my little heart out. I started to feel some relief. In addition, I grabbed some physical therapy sessions to really focus on getting this taken care of once and for all. By the time Catalina came was I good to go and didn’t just complete the full 50K distance, but completed it very well while feeling great!

Our Catalina adventure went beyond all of my expectations. Amy was very well organized throughout the whole process and especially while in Catalina. Everything was planned and well thought out… Hotel, boat and dinner reservations were made for us, packing lists were printed out, trekking poles were shipped, we had our own rooms with a care package waiting for us, and the list goes on.

Post Catalina Trail 50KHowever, the one thing that I was most impressed with was Amy’s attitude. To organize something like this for 25 people is not an easy task. Amy is a naturally encouraging person and it showed throughout the entire training and event. She TRULY cared about each and every one of us mentally and physically.

Running the Trans Catalina Trail on Catalina Island was a lifetime memory that I will never forget. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

~Kelly D.

Are you ready for a new fitness challenge that exceeds all your expectations and perceived limits? Stay tuned to AVC Elite Training updates for an upcoming announcement and adventure coming soon.

Tough Mudder to Trail Runner

I have enjoyed working out for many years, but have never been a runner.  It always seemed too hard and too boring to me. I did participate in Amy’s Running Programs and Running Clinics which began the process for me in not only learning how to run properly, but actually enjoying running as well.

So when Amy started talking about the Catalina 50k, I initially thought there was no way I could ever do that let alone enjoy it just from the standpoint of it being 31+ miles.  But, since I had done the Tough Mudder training with Amy the previous year and successfully completed Tough Mudder Arizona with ease, I knew she could get me ready for anything.  I decided to give it a try.

Trans Catalina Trail RunWe started out with our endurance running (which at that time definitely included some walking) for about 10 miles on Saturday mornings and eventually worked our way up to 25 miles.

We also had to run on our own during the week and participate in the group training which proved to be very beneficial when we hit nothing but a series of constant serious steep climbs on the Trans Catalina Trail last April.

Slowly but surely, the running started to get easier, faster, and more fun.  The shape of my body even changed. I lost about 10 pounds!

Amy always emphasized the importance of proper nutrition and hydration throughout our entire training and I followed her advice as best I could. All areas of our training including recovery and a number of the things we needed to do outside of simply the “physical part” of our training gave me the preparedness needed to complete the 50k.

Catalina Trail RunnersI managed to stay injury free during the whole process and completed the Catalina 50k with only a few blisters on my feet. What I enjoyed even more was the camaraderie with the people that I trained with.

We had so much fun when we were out there on the trails for hours and hours.  It definitely helped the time go by faster. Now, I can even say that I actually enjoy trail running and will keep at it. Thanks Amy!

~ Shannon

Want to actually enjoy your fitness like Shannon does? Try a workout with Coach Amy and experience how we put the FUN in functional fitness. Learn more today!

Feeling Like a Million Bucks After 50K

I found myself getting complacent with my workouts. I’ve always been driven and motivated, but was looking for a way to challenge myself even more. I just recently moved to Arizona from the Dakotas and realized there are a lot of things I haven’t tried fitness wise especially now living in the beautiful Southwest.

Trail running Mesa ArizonaI’ve never been much of a runner… actually truth be told, I disliked running. 

A good friend of mine invited me on a trail run one day and I was hooked. I had run a marathon before, and told myself “never again.”

Trail running is an entirely different sport than marathon running or road running. There are so many things about it that I love…the scenery and terrain alone make it such a beautiful experience and a nice change from simply running out on the road.

I decided to join a training group with a common goal in mind while actually learning from a seasoned, serious coach, Amy Van Cleve.  I have had the time of my life!

After meeting Amy, I knew it would be a lot of fun, yet challenging. Amy sent out detailed fueling, hydration and heart rate information weekly. It really helped me to make sure I was on track. She called to see how I was feeling after a couple long trail runs. She has so much heart and truly cares and wants you to meet your goals.

I found myself getting hooked on trail running as we continued our training for Catalina. I wanted to go further and get faster which I was accomplishing throughout each trail run. I learned how much is involved in good training such as proper fueling and becoming a more efficient runner by running correctly.

I learned how effective foam rolling can be along with proper recovery.  I’ve learned so much about my body and all there is involved in becoming a successful runner. It isn’t just about tagging on mileage as I have learned from Amy.

What amazes me is how 3 months ago a 10 mile run left me sore and tired.  After learning how to train the “right way” while training under Amy’s coaching and preparing for Catalina, hitting those long endurance Saturdays of 20+ miles seemed relatively effortless!

So after a 50k trail run with extremely steep climbs, and serious declines, loose gravel trails and 10 miles of pavement to finish it off, I can honestly say that I feel like a million bucks!

celebrating Catalina 50KIt amazed me, to wake up the next morning and didn’t have an ache, anywhere! I feel I’ve learned so many valuable lessons along the way. I’ve definitely learned I’m capable of so much more than I imagined.

Amy is an awesome coach and will push you with your best interest in mind.  She knows everyone is different and we all have different goals.  Now with Amy’s guidance, I finished a 50k on the Trans Catalina Trail (on Catalina Island) which was an amazing experience on all accounts! Now that is awesome coaching!



Are you looking to escape complacency in your fitness regime? You too are capable of more than you imagine.  Let Amy help you discover new strength, enjoyment and recovery in your fitness journey.