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Heels or Toes? Foot Placement While Running Explained


Heels or Toes? Foot Placement While Running Explained

Foot placement while running is an age old debate that many regular runners are familiar with. What’s wrong with running on your heels? “Landing on your heels is horrible for your knees and back!” Well what about forefoot striking? “What a great way to give yourself tight calves and plantar fasciitis”. If that’s true, then obviously landing on the midfoot is the way to go. Like Goldilocks would say, “Not too hot, not too cold. Right in the middle is just right”. The truth is, none of them are necessarily right or wrong.

How the foot strikes the ground has more to do with a runner’s speed, footwear, and the running surface itself.

However, there is a best way to orient yourself so that your feet land properly when running in various conditions.

According to physical therapist, Jay Dicharry, who is internationally renown in running gait analysis, placing the foot as close to your body is much more important in the grand scheme of the entire gait cycle than where on the foot you land. Just because you heel-strike, doesn’t mean you’re over-striding because there are plenty of forefoot strikers who over-stride as well. There are pros and cons to heel, forefoot, and midfoot striking, and which one is more optimal has more to do with the individuality of the athlete, speed, footwear, and the quality of the surface you are running on. 

Steve Magness, Head Cross Country coach at the University of Houston, former Olympic coach, and author of the book, The Science of Running, says that “ideal landing is close to the center of your body and directly underneath the knee”.

If you follow the above advice, your foot should naturally land the way it’s supposed to based on your speed and characteristics of the surface you are running on. When running at faster speeds, like when sprinting, your foot should naturally land more on the forefoot, whereas when running at a slower pace, like when jogging, your foot will probably land more on the midfoot or even on the heel. However, no matter the speed, you should always try to place your foot as close to beneath your hip as possible and then focus on driving your foot down and back to propel yourself forward.





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