Wednesday, January 6, 2016

You Should Not Be Heel Striking

Picture by richseow from Flickr
In the picture above, you can see clearly the lead runner and a few others behind him heel striking whilst running. So is heel striking bad?

A group of Danish researchers studied runners who landed on their heels while running, The runners had a personal best time of 17 minutes or slower for 5 km.

In the study, the runners ran 1 km on a track with a force plate at three different speeds. 8 km/ hour (about 12 min/ mile), 11.79 km/ hour (8:20 pace) and 15.78 km/ hour (slightly over 6:00 pace).

The results showed that the total load on the front of the knee actually increases with slower running. This can cause or aggravate anterior (or front) knee pain, also commonly known as runner's knee.

Although the load on the runners' knees was higher on each stride during faster running, the runners took more strides to cover the same distance if they ran slower. As a result, the runners accumulated 80 per cent more load on the front of their knees when they ran at a slower pace.

The results explain why running more mileage (and heel striking) is linked to pain at the front of the knees. This also explains why runners with knee pain who switched to running with minimalist type shoes with the correct technique stopped having knee pain. Note that it has to be correct technique, otherwise the impact can be 7 times greater.

The authors suggest that if you are a heel striker with knee pain you may want to consider running shorter distances at a faster pace to limit the cumulative loads on your knees.

Well, better not heel strike when you run to avoid getting knee pain in the first place.


Petersen J, Sorensen H et al (2015). Cumulative Loads Increase At The Knee Joint With Slow-speed Running Compared to Faster Running: A Biomechanical Study. J Orth Sports Phy Ther. 45(4): 316-322. DOI: 10. 2519/jospt.2015.5469.

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