Theory + Practice: Why Runners Should Not Focus on Their Footstrike
If you were to attend one of the Pose Method seminars on running technique you’d hear something many don’t expect to hear – an instruction of the participants to not focus on their footstrike. “Forget about footstrike! Pull, pull, pull!” If you’ve already attended the course, you know why, and for everyone else, the answer is simple – how your foot lands is a byproduct of your technique overall so there is no need to focus on it.
Over the years, the debate about running technique went sideways and into an unintended territory of footstrike. You’re a heelstriker! No I land on my midfoot. Wait, but forefoot is better! It should come as no surprise to anyone that as we run we sometimes land on various parts of the foot depending on the road, the terrain, whether we’re speeding up or slowing down, making a turn, a u-turn, a zigzag or going for a straight shot. So referring to anyone based on how they claim to land is silly. That’s besides the fact that most of the time those claims are not supported by their own video footage.
Without a question, our forefoot is better built to accept the bodyweight load. While landing on the front part of your foot is the way to go, that should not be the focus of learning or teaching someone how to run.
Why should we not focus on how we land? Because the part of the foot that we land on isn’t as important as where we land, but even that should not be our focus. A bigger picture should be taken into account:
- How does the body of a runner move relative to the point of support?
- Where is that point of support relative to the general center of mass?
- What is going on with your technique overall?
When teaching or learning how to run we must not separate our feet from the body and the body from the environment it is in.
Focus on Footstrike = Focus on Landing = Wasted Effort
Focus on footstrike also forces one to focus on landing which usually results in forced landing ahead and that is not a good thing. Besides, why focus on something that we do on a virtually instinctual level? It’s going to happen anyway so what gives?
Try to push someone lightly as they are walking or standing, or even running. The direction of the push does not matter. This is what is going to happen next – the person will reposition their foot or both feet to maintain their balance no matter how clumsily but without giving it a second thought, and most likely not even realizing they are doing it, all the while looking at you. You will feel and see their entire focus in their stare. I encourage you to experiment but it’s probably safer to do this with a friend! Again, running drills and exercises would help you not be clumsy when repositioning your limbs.
Our body always strives to maintain balance as a whole where limbs play a supporting role. If you were to focus on how you place your feet and arms when you stand or walk you’d look pretty awkward and odd.
Focus on the Running Pose = Efficient, Effective, Minimal Effort
In order to understand where our focus should be as we run, and why, we must understand that running technique is more than just footstrike. It is the movement of our entire body, but most importantly, it is how that movement happens. It surely isn’t just about putting one foot in front of the other. That approach is the reason for a ridiculously high rate of injuries among runners.
The Running Pose is the single instance in the entire cycle of the running stride that is critical to perfect running. It is distinguished from the thousands of positions in the running cycle in three critical ways: balance, potential energy and resilience. When a runner maintains the running pose, he /she automatically lands on the most appropriate part of the foot for that moment in time and space given the terrain, speed and other circumstances. Most of the time that would be directly underneath our body. If you are on a trail – you might end up landing a bit to the side or have to leap here and there, I trust you get the point. The key is to stay compact and ready. Your running pose should be ingrained into your pattern of movement to the point where you don’t even think about it. And this is where we can (at least we should) clearly see the importance of running drills. Preparation for the actual act of running is everything.
The right approach to movement requires a concept. Without a concept all we have are bits and parts that take everyone into different directions and further away from where it should be. When teaching or learning how to run we must not separate our feet from the body and the body from the environment it is in. We move in tune with the forces that are present. Our feet will surely land on their own so maintain focus on how you move. Focus on your Running Pose.
About the author(s)
Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.