One of the most commonly sighted running technique ‘flaws’ is heel-striking. But these images taken of elite men and women at the US Olympic Trials 10,000m seem to tell a very different story.
I’ve promised in the excerpt to this article to say little and let the pictures do the talking, but I will make a few brief observations and pose a few questions which I’d invite readers to offer some thoughts on.
So without further introduction, here are the images taken by Dr Iain Hunter of Brigham Young University that he has kindly given me permission to publish here.
Women’s 10,000m US Olympic Trials foot-strike images
Men’s 10,000m US Olympic Trials foot-strike images
I don’t think it’s drawing too long a bow to suggest the following after looking at these images.
It is possible to sustain very fast running as a heel-striker
So perhaps this is stating the obvious, but it’s interesting to see such fast runners exhibiting, in some cases, pretty dramatic heel-tapping. How is this possible? Forefoot striking is supposed to be all about running fast?
Heel-striking isn’t necessarily a short cut to debilitating injury
I think it’s safe to assume that during their running careers that many of the pictured runners have been able to sustain lengthy periods of high volume and high intensity injury free running. Sure at some point I’m sure many have been injured, but that’s part and parcel of pushing the envelop at the elite level.
How can I say this with any confidence? Well it’s pretty unlikely that even the most gifted athlete on the planet could turn up off a couple of weeks training and run the 10,000m in under 28 minutes.
These guys and girls have been pushing the envelope. I’d argue that if heel-striking was such a dangerous thing, wouldn’t the elite volume and intensity of training push them over the edge into injury? How did the heel-strikers even reach the start-line in these trials?
Well the argument that all runners should be looking to transition from heel-striking to forefoot or mid-foot striking is one of the most all pervading messages runners hear day-in day-out. The popular running methods Pose and Chi are on board with this call, as are many shoe companies looking to entice runners into wearing shoes that promise to facilitate or help you develop a forefoot or mid-foot running style.
But is this necessary, wise or even effective at reducing injury rates or promoting performance levels? These pictures suggest there is a much bigger picture at play.
So this my world-record shortest blog post, but I do have a few articles in the works that will touch on some of the reasons why I believe foot-strike modification is one of the lower priority running technique interventions. And controversially, why it might also lead to problems that perhaps were not initially foreseen. Regular readers of the blog will no doubt have an idea where I’m headed, but there’s a few additional angles that I will be adding into the discussion. In the interim feel free to jump in with thoughts, comments and suggestions.
By Brian Martin