Running Foot Strike and Force Application
Written by Adarian Barr
Edited by Alysson Bodenbach
Speed seems to be a common component in an athlete’s repertoire. Speed is what gives one athlete an edge over another. It is what propels them from point a” to point “b.” It is essential for almost every sport, but the question remains: How is speed produced, and how can I run faster? One of the answers lies in the position of the foot when making contact with the ground.
There is no secret to speed. The answers have been laid out for years, but oftentimes it is more complicated than it really needs to be. Let us start with force production. To get from point “a” to point “b,” something will need to propel you. More than likely, a combination of your hips and legs will be the main source of force, but your brain will come up with whatever combination it feels is most efficient. Once you’ve figured out how to produce the force, you need to learn how to apply it.
The foot becomes a significant factor when determining the efficiency of the force application. Pronation from the outside of the foot, the heel, and the ball of the foot, back to supination towards the fifth metatarsal is essential for producing the greatest amount of forced overtime. This means that as your foot approaches the ground, it should be supinated to prepare for pronation upon ground contact. By doing so, your foot can cover a greater amount of surface area, allowing for greater force application.
The foot’s position often plays one of the unsung heroes of force production and will continue to be until more coaches preach about it. If you are looking to increase your speed, you must first start with force, but force alone will not make you faster. If you don’t have the proper foot position that will allow you to apply the force your speed potential will be just that: potential.
How can I change from a midfoot strike to a Foot Strike as soon as possible?
FIRST OFF, do NOT try to land forefoot first. That will happen naturally when your body and legs are doing what they should be doing.
Keep your torso’s posture upright.
Bend your knees (maintaining that upright posture).
DO NOT lead with your foot. Move your body in front of your feet and let the feet follow. If you’re not landing (gently NO STRIKING) fore-foot first, then you have problems with your posture, and/or you’re trying to lead with your foot, and/or you’re TRYING to land forefoot first.
DO NOT TRY to push off; just keep moving your body forward and letting your feet follow. Focus on moving your body horizontally instead of up and down.
If you need to TRY to land fore-foot first, then your body’s posture is bad, and/or your knees are not bent enough.
How much horizontal force must a sprinter exert?
Using rough estimates, we can get a rough answer. Let us say a 100m sprinter accelerates for the first 5 s of the 10s race. They reach a final velocity of about 15m/s. This means an average acceleration of about 3m/s2. This is about a third of a “g,” but remember, this is an average value. If they have a mass of about 80kg, then the average force they need to exert on the ground is about 240N. It will be a lot higher at the very start.
The starting blocks and shoe spikes help a lot by making them less reliant on friction. In fact, the forces exerted are about tens times this, but they are intermittently exerted; there are times when the sprinter is not even touching the ground. This has a good graph.
What is the difference between running on your full foot than using the 1st half portion of our feet, and also, what are the merits and demerits of it?
The first thing is to listen to your strikes; if it’s loud, you certainly need to correct it like this means you will injure yourself, affect your joints, so lighter strikes mean you move faster, with less fatigue less injury.
There are 3 techniques to strike your foot on the ground so let me clarify and list that first; then, I will let you decide a style for you based on your goals.
- Fore Foot strike running
- Mid Foot strike running
- Rear Foot or Heel first strike
1. Forefoot strike
As the name suggests, the toe part is the first to strike the track, its popularly used for sprinting, all the sprinters use this technique as it is related to shorter contact time which means you will be fast, so if you are aiming to run for a fixed meter say like 100m to 400m dash, then this is the best, fastest way.
Demerits increase stress on the knees as the force with which we strike the ground gets transferred to the knees; it will affect you in the long horizon of time.
But if you are training to be an athlete, you can choose this technique, but if you are running for a hobby, then I won’t recommend this; for a quick dash to catch a bus, I use this technique for regular practice. The reality is almost everyone sprints on their forefoot. It is biomechanically faster, though requiring greater calf and leg strength to maintain.
2. Mid Footstrike:
This is the one that I use, as I practice for 10K runs, half marathons. Since it’s a more relaxed sort of running, this makes me increase this activity time to complete my goal. If I use a forefoot strike running, then after one or 2 Kilometers. I will start to feel fatigued due to muscles trying to keep my toe stretched and impact it on the ground.
3. Heel First Strike:
This technique makes us feel very relaxed, but it slows us down and causes injuries. The heel has a cushion, yet it’s designed to get you better positioned to walk, not for the short impact you make when running. Demerits are that it injures the knees more as the impact shock directly gets transferred to the knees. And the heel first strike makes us bend a little, which further strains the knee to the impact.
Towards the end of the marathon. Many runners start to run with the heel-first strike. As they are exhausted, and they find it easier.
Whatever technique you choose, it’s always better to stretch yourself up, look straight, focus on a point 20 yards away.
And then run instead of looking at your foot. Looking straight makes you keep your head straight, which makes breathing easier and improves balance while running.
I hope the answer has helped you, and do post an update about your running.