Thursday, December 4, 2008

To heel strike or not to heel strike...

After my last 10k race in October I spotted a picture of me during the race. I'm quite a fan of finding photos - why, I don't know, I very rarely look normal in them. That's beside the point. What I did notice in this photo is how pronounced my heel strike was. Looking through other photos of me I saw a trend, there was a lot of photos of a very straight right leg and the heel about to hit the ground first. I've never really thought too much on the topic of how I run, I generally just go with the idea of running is one foot in front of the other, and that we all have our ways of doing it that seem the most effective.

According to the sites I checked on heel striking the opinion was that heel striking is bad and should be avoided. The logic made sense to me. By striking your heel first means that your leg is straight on impact. As your leg is straight it is essentially braking forward momentum and you end up starting the movement from scratch again. If your knee is slightly bent as the foot strikes the ground your leg is not locking into a straight position and you should be able to move off it quicker, therefore running faster. I've kept this very, very basic as I'm not in any sense an expert on the way your foot should land or what's better than what. Google is where I went for my answers!

I'm not a huge believer in changing what feels natural to me. I don't want to invest in books that tell me how to run, or spend time doing drills that would bore me, I just want to get out and run. I decided to simply concentrate on my foot fall when on my easy runs over the past few weeks. Obviously I don't spend the full hour out running thinking about how my foot is landing each time, I'm just that bit more aware of it than I was before. The best piece of advice I saw was to simply lean forward at the hips while running. This prevents your leg from landing straight and makes it easier not to heel strike.

This was all well and good until this week. No changes in my training, nor am I injured. I was quite happy with the thought "if I can run 34+ mins for 10k while heel striking, imagine how fast I'll be able to go next time without my legs deciding to brake every stride"; then I saw this picture.

Exhibit A
This, my friends, is Andriy Naumov, winner of the Dublin Marathon 2008, in a time of 2:11:06. When was this picture taken? During the poxy marathon! He was heel striking, slowing himself down, his leg was straight acting as a brake, HEEL BLOODY STRIKING!!! Has google lied to me? Has the way I've been running fine all along? Am I wasting my time concentrating on the way my foot falls? Should I just go with what's natural?Bang on 5:00 minute mile pace for 26.2 miles... doesn't sound like the brakes did him any harm...

One picture has thrown doubt in my mind. I'll probably continue paying attention to the way my feet are landing on these easy runs but I'm now less of a believer in one way is right and one is wrong. Back to whatever feels natural is best for me!
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