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Part 3: Heavy Heel Striking
Are you wearing out of the rear of your runners much more quickly than the rest of your shoe? You may have a heavy heel strike in your running style. This is commonly paired with a very “loud” running style, where you can commonly hear the contact that you make with the ground. So take out your headphones, and listen to your style!
Heavy heel striking is not only unattractive to watch when observing gait, it is extremely taxing on the body. That large impact sends load through the posterior leg and can lead to longstanding conditions such as ankle instability, shin splints, muscular overload and even stress fractures. It even relates to the topic we covered in the last blog in this series – looking at how overstriding can affect your gait. If you are a chronic overstrider, you may also be contributing to your injury risk heavily loading on the rear-foot.
Research conducted at Curtin University in Perth looked at the relationship between “running quietly” and vertical ground reaction forces (how much load is impacting the body during ground contact). Their study found, particularly with male participants, their peak loading rates and forces were reduced when asked to “run quietly.” This important piece of research backs up many coaches and health professional’s beliefs that potentially altering a runner away from a heavy heel striking gait, can help to prevent further injury.
This is not to say that heel striking is a terrible gait characteristic. A large percentage of the population do run with a heel strike style gait, and can be seen in many endurance athletes across the world. What is important to remember is that any type of instability associated with the rear foot can largely effect how we manage the increased load of running through the lower limbs.
To assess the effect of this characteristic, having your running technique analysed by a running coach or health professional is the best way to prevent any injuries that may develop.
About the Author
James Unkles is a Podiatrist at CSSM, who enjoys running as part of a balanced lifestyle. His passion in biomechanical analysis will help you get the most out of your running.
Xuan Phan, Tiffany L. Grisbrook, Kevin Wernli, Sarah M. Stearne , Paul Davey & Leo Ng (2017) Running quietly reduces ground reaction force and vertical loading rate and alters foot strike technique, Journal of Sports Sciences, 35:16, 1636-1642, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2016.1227466
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