Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stride Right

When I first started the Couch to 5K program, I had absolutely no idea how to run properly.  Even though I have always dreamed of becoming a runner, and even pretended to be one several times for short periods of time, I had never acheived a comfortable running stride.  Running always felt extremely difficult and I never stuck with it for this reason.  Last year was different in that I felt like I was literally running for my life.  I was going to lose weight and become a runner because the alternative was to coast through life in a horribly unhappy state.  It was time for me to make permanent changes.

When I began the C25K program I was worried about my past failures as a runner and decided that using a formal (proven) program to get started was the first step to success.  So I started the program, followed it to a T, and graduated some nine weeks later.  I can still remember those first runs, when a minute felt like too long, when at the end of the 25 minute run/walk session I felt like I might faint from exhaustion.  It was brutal and exhilarating.  I was scared and excited.  I looked forward to and dreaded each running session at the same time.  It was simply awesome!  And all the while I was running, I was saying to myself over and over heeltoe, heeltoe, heeltoe, and I was striking my foot in exactly that rhythm:  heel then toe.

At one point I told my husband this was how I got through the running intervals and he was like, "Um, you're not supposed to land on your heel, you're supposed to land on the middle of your foot or closer to your toe."  I looked at him like he was crazy.  Not possible, I thought.  You land like you do when you're walking only faster.  So I kept going.  I finished the program and I kept running.  Then I started having a lot of trouble with my leg and knee, problems that were caused by wearing the wrong shoe.  I read a lot about running stride and foot strike when I was reading about shoes.  So often I read about the benefits of a midfoot to forefoot strike as opposed to a heel stike.  Interesting, but food for though until after I get the shoe issue worked out, I thought.  Luckily I finally found the right (ugly) shoes sometime in late November.

It was in the latter part of December that I finally decided to start actively trying to change my running stride.  And then winter hit and it's been a long one.  I've been running less and less, both indoors and out, so it has taken awhile to notice any real positive change.  But I am finally noticing!!  A midfoot strike feels so much better on my body!  I have watched lots of running videos on YouTube and I know how I should move my body, legs, and feet.  I still have to concentrate on landing with my foot more parallel to the ground, and sometimes I forget what I'm doing and revert to the heel strike, but then I start feeling more fatigued and it isn't long before I remember what I'm supposed to do.  I know that if I keep practicing, I can successfully change my stride for the betterment of my running experience.  It's just a matter of relearning what I thought I knew and clearly did not.  Thank goodness for Google, YouTube, and running blogs!

Are you a midfoot, forefoot, or a heel striker?  Have you actively worked on changing your running stride and/or foot strike?  Why or why not?


  1. I've never really given much thought to my running stride...I'm always so focused on just making it through the session! I'm going to have to check out some of those YouTube videos. ;)

  2. I'm a fledgling runner who hasn't put much thought into her stride. :) I would guess that I am heel striker though. I don't know the first thing about how to go about changing that.

  3. I'm also a fledgling runner. But I have noticed a huge difference in having my foot land parallel to the ground (ie, no heel-toe, and more mid-foot). I initially was having pains in my achilles tendon, around the ankle (a problem I am susceptible to)and also below my knee. These problems disappeared when I stopped hitting the ground with the heal first. I asked this guy I work with that's super athletic abut a pain I was getting (below the knee) and he said it was due to the stress of landing on your heel - too much stress on impact, and suggested I strike more with my mid-foot. He was right! So yeah, I think that's a huge indicator that heel-toe is bad.

    However, I'm still having issues with major fatique in my leg muscles, usually from just above my knee through my feet. My quads are generally fine, but the rest...still a major struggle at times.

  4. I really struggled with the C25K at first too. It was all about just making it through and never about my stride or my form or anything. Maybe that's part of my problem. We are restarting the program this week and I think I'm going to pay attention to this to see if it helps. I'm definitely going to be doing some youtube surfing tonight!

  5. I remember looking up my first C25K program!! I didn't follow it through to the end....but that was only because I didn't like the program I chose. I'm still running to this day, so it must have done SOMETHING for me. :-)

    I've been to a million doctors and PTs trying to figure out my leg pain issues. The first thing they all looked at were my shoes and my strike. They had me change the style of shoes I was wearing....but they all told me "Do NOT think about your strike. What you're doing is just what you should be doing, don't try and change it." Well heck, the minute someone tells me to NOT think about something....that's all I can think about. :-) I spent many miles focusing and concentrating on my foot placement on the ground. I'm definitely a midfoot striker most of the time (more forefoot when running up hills).

  6. I know I need to change the way I hit my foot. Thanks for suggesting You Tube. I would not have thought of looking there!

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