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Is it bad to heel strike when running?

Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CGFI


Just a quick note, the other day I had a patient come in and we were discussing her running technique.  She had some knee problems and wanted to get back to running with the least amount of knee stress.  We went over how she was hitting the ground, hitting with her forefoot or heel first.

In the past, we always thought that heel striking first was bad.  But new information says otherwise.  It’s not as bad as we thought.

The main issue is WHERE you hit the ground. Striking the ground too far in front of your center of gravity as you are running creates a “braking” effect.  It results in higher ground reaction forces and stress up the leg.  And in the past, most people who hit the ground way in front of their bodies were hitting the ground with their heel.  So we just threw it out there, that heel striking is bad.

But if you hit the ground closer, or below your center of gravity as you run, you have less stress and “braking” effect to your run, and you lose less forward momentum.  So therefore, if you hit the ground in the right location, it doesn’t matter WHAT hits the ground first.

There are studies out now that investigated how foot strike affects stress on the legs.

Here’s the quick and dirty:

If you’re having achilles tendon / ankle / foot pain:  hit with the heel first.

If you’re having knee / hip pain: hit with the midfoot to forefoot first.

You can read more about it here.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit us.


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