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Which is better – running from the midfoot or from the heel?

Publish date 25.08.2022

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Which is better – running from the midfoot or from the heel?

If you’re not a professional runner, you must run at some point in your life anyway – for the bus or you were late for some important meeting. Many people don’t pay attention to how they run. You may notice that the vast majority of runners land on their heels during training. This way of running is simpler, it also seemingly makes one run faster. But is it really a healthier and more effective way of running? 

Are you curious about this? What is better – running from the midfoot or from the heel? In this article, we will compare the technique of running from the midfoot with the technique of running from the heel. 

Running from the heel

We walk by taking steps from the heel, the same way we run. Running “from the heel” is much simpler than midfoot running. It requires less effort from you and doesn’t engage the calf as much. You also have to take into account that from constant sitting and humping, the muscles are severely weakened: some are inappropriately contracted, while others are overstretched. 

How’s your current lifestyle and habits changing your body? Check it out:

  • The muscles of the foot are untrained and even dormant by constantly walking in shoes (the foot then doesn’t have to work as much as it does barefoot);
  • Gluteal muscles are weak and stretched;
  • The pectoralis major muscle is contracted.

All this sooner or later leads to the development of various pains. This pain occurs even faster when such a person starts running. She is then doomed in advance to run the wrong way because her body is not prepared for the right technique.

Heel running – why is it worth it and how does it work?

Heel running allows you to comfortably lengthen your stride. All you have to do is extend your leg forward. You may think you are running faster and more efficiently. Unfortunately, this very often leads to injury, especially when you land on an upright leg. In turn, this is what happens if you land well in front of your center of gravity. 

The heel is hard. There is nothing in it that can absorb and dissipate the energy given off from the ground. The heel is not designed to cushion the forces acting on you while running. 

Runners run from the heel, and since it does not cushion the impact, there is a demand for shoes with appropriate cushioning. What is more, the manufacturers are creating more and more technologically advanced running shoes. The special shoes create force movement from the heel – because of the large amount of cushioning and heel-to-toe drop). This, in turn, often leads to injuries, because runners don’t feel they are running in a bad way, and their bad habits and posture get even worse. Everything creates a vicious circle. 

Running from the heel – anatomic and biomechanics side of the story 

The heel is separated from the tibia and then the knee by only two bones: the calcaneus and ankle bone (talus). 

Looking in terms of anatomy and biomechanics, when it comes to running from the heel, this type of landing is not natural. Your heel was not designed for this. What’s more, research shows that heel running contributes to a decrease in the efficiency of running.

What contributes to running from the heel? – short summary 

  • Weak runner’s muscles (including the feet);
  • People who want to change their lives for the better and start to run very often have not only weak muscles but also postural defects, and are often overweight – then it is easier for them to run from the heel;
  • Low mobility in the ankle and hip joint;
  • The shoes are almost 100% force movement from the heel.
Running from the heel or midfoot - women on the track

Running from the midfoot 

It should be noted that this way of running is not natural. From a young age, everyone moves from the heel, and it is difficult to get the body used to making other movements. 

However, it is important to remember that the human foot was created for running and cushioning.

Running from the midfoot – let’s look at the anatomical side 

The foot – not the heel. It consists of 26 bones and 33 joints, a distinct arch is visible in it. When midfoot running, all these elements work together with the toes and calf. It’s a machine made for cushioning. However, the foot must be properly strengthened.

Why is it better to run from the midfoot and not the heel? 

  • If you are landing on the midfoot, then it is easier to maintain a proper stride length, which contributes to better running economy;
  • Running from the midfoot increases cadence, which translates into more efficient and faster running;
  • The metatarsal is designed for cushioning – this is why this kind of running technique provides less risk of injury (if you are prepared for this kind of running);
  • Landing on the midfoot makes it easier to maintain a smaller angle of attack – in this way your running is smooth;
  • When you are running, there is something called a “flight phrase”. After this phrase, only one leg lands on the ground and bounces off it. While walking, there is a moment when both legs are on the ground. This is an important difference. During walking, no force greater than your body weight acts on your feet. During running, the force is pressing on your feet. When you are landing on the heel, the ground returns to you with a force 2.5 times your body weight;
  • Heel strike time is longer than midfoot strike time because the entire rolling phase must occur: heel – metatarsal – forefoot – rebound. This affects a lower cadence and is not efficient;
  • When landing on the heel, a tendency is created to set it at a high angle to the ground, and this causes deceleration of the movement from the front. After all, if you’re running, it is important for you to get to the finish line or other destination as quickly as possible and not lose speed in the process.

Everything you just read makes this type of running (from the midfoot), healthier, more profitable, and more effective. Therefore, it is worth learning this running technique. 

Disadvantages of running from midfoot without proper preparation

  • Midfoot running puts a lot of strain on the calf and Achilles tendon – the muscles have to hold the heel up. This is a problem, especially for people who are not prepared for this type of running. These are usually beginner runners, but also people who do not strengthen their muscles or do not work on postural defects. This is why at the beginning you will feel pain in the ankle or even in the foot. Without strengthening them, you will lead to injury. 
  • This kind of running affects the sole vault – aponeurosis plantaris. 
  • Without proper preparation, you will not achieve the right angle of attack on the foot. The normal angle of attack is 92 degrees, but when running from the midfoot it must be less. If you don’t do that, then it may lead to Achilles tendinitis. 
  • People with foot defects – supination and pronation – need to take even longer to prepare for running from the midfoot, work on their hips and do a lot of functional exercises under the guidance of a psychotherapist. 

If you really want to run from the midfoot, then you should start with proper exercise to prepare your body for a different type of running and different efforts. You need to keep in mind that if you start running from the midfoot, you may see a drop in pace at the very beginning. This is related to the change in running technique.

What to choose – running from the midfoot or from the heel?

You are still wondering what technique is better. Running from the midfoot or from the heel? It is necessary to state at the very beginning of this point that it is worth learning to run from the midfoot. This will bring many benefits. Of course, the process is not immediate, and you have to work at it, but it is definitely worth it. 

You should also keep in mind that you should not start learning to run from the midfoot if you are overweight or have not strengthened your muscles. 

If your muscles continue to be weak, or you are slightly overweight, start by running from the heel but remember to: 

  • do not land on the leg straightened at the knee;
  • the leg does not land in front of you, but underneath you;
  • land lightly and softly on the heel and then roll the whole foot to distribute the weight of the impact. 

Now it’s all about the two running techniques. Which do you choose for yourself? Running from the midfoot or from the heel? We have presented you with all the pros and cons. Remember, if you want to run from the midfoot then first strengthen your muscles to make this running technique enjoyable and beneficial to you. 

It is important to remember to be precise on time when it comes to this type of technique. What is more, it is important to be prepared to lose some weight and to strengthen your ability to move from left to right. 

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