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.
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
Wearing 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.”
Looking 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.