triathlon and family can mix

The Striker War

For runners and others alike, this can get heated.

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I read many articles and chat with a lot of runners about foot strike. I know, nothing better to talk about, hey triathlete? I have noticed that the overall tone has changed in the last couple of months from ‘cool, I think that would be great for me” to “oh, that is just a fad”. I figured that it may be time to share my experience. So here I go.

First and foremost, I am not an expert. I am not educated in Sports Medicine, nor am I sub 2:30 marathoner. I am just a regular guy who decided that enough was enough with nagging injuries and tried something different

To sum up what I had been taught up to that point in my life; pronation (over and under), arch height, heel strike, cushioned shoes, and all that jazz. Definition of Insanity – Doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result.

After injuring my knee on a 5k run, see this post for more details, I took my physio’s advice and began looking at my foot strike as the source of my injury. I won’t bore you with the details as there are so many other options for education on this very internet. Like everything else, I started experimenting on my own. I would head out for run, trying hard to concentrate on striking the ground with the ball of my foot, instead of the heel. Man was it tough; it felt unnatural. It wasn’t until I read “Born to Run” that I realized that if it felt good the first time, I was doing it wrong.

Almost immediately, things got better.

I was feeling lighter on my feet, and my injuries went away. My knees, which I had hurt playing baseball as a kid, no longer ached after a 7-8km run. I eventually worked my way up to 18km training runs in anticipation for the half marathon at Ironman 70.3 Calgary. I finished that race with no muscle issues. Sure I was sore, but I was able to race in an Olympic distance 2 weeks after.

One part that I changed that made an immediate difference; my shoes. It is tough to strike with your mid foot when your heel is 12mm higher. I am not saying it can’t be done, I see many people doing it, but it isn’t easy. Nor am I suggesting that footwear alone will solve all your problems. It took me almost a year and a lot of work to really get comfortable.

I won’t offer step-by-step instructions on how to transition because there are so many ways to do it, again, mostly available on this thing called the internet. All I am saying is that it worked for me, so it could work for you.

To show the difference, here is a couple of shots. Different races, the first from Lake Chaparral (Sprint), and the second from Ironman 70.3 Calgary, one year apart. Notice that even though I am wearing a ‘natural running shoe’, I am still predominantly striking with my heel in Chaparral. Another story for another day.

Question: What are your thoughts, is the mid-foot strike a fad?

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5 responses

  1. I tried switching about a year ago as well, and like you I have had great success with a more mid to front foot strike. Feels more natural now! What shoes do you use?

    September 2, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    • For the past 2 years I have been running in the Minimus line from New Balance. I started with the Road10 and now run in the Road Zero’s. Small difference is height (4mm) and weight (45grams) but a huge difference in feel and speed. Glad to hear a success story these days.

      September 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

      • Great shoes! I’m running in the Minimus mx20’s.

        September 3, 2013 at 10:53 am

  2. Interesting – I’m a heel striker for sure. Never had an injury (but doesn’t mean one won’t creep up). Something I want to evaluate this off season to decide if a change is right for me

    September 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

    • Just remember dude, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

      September 13, 2013 at 10:05 am

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