Any athlete that has spent time in Evolution has probably heard Chris tell them or someone in the group to stop running on their heels.
The reasoning is simple, fast sprinters do not strike the ground with their heel. Proper foot contact should be with the front half of the foot.
I think the reason we get so many heel strikers is because of prolonged running. Most athletes are required to repeatedly sprint in their sport but poor conditioning methods employed by trainers/coaches are calling for more prolonged running.
Excess distance, slower speed, and not enough rest causes athletes to default back to heel contact. It takes a lot of muscular demand to run in this manner when an athlete is not used to it.
The following reasons are why you or your athlete should not run on their heels.
1. Force production increases with a high arch strike
Sprinting fast is all about producing a lot of force in a short amount of time. You will produce more force by striking with the front half of the foot.
This position gives you a much more solid platform than the heel or the toes. Stability in the foot does not allow energy to be lost in the stride.
Improving stride length is done by pushing harder into the ground. More stride length will result in more speed.
2. Less time is spent on the ground
Athletes lose a lot of speed when they spend too much time on the ground. Fast sprinters minimize their foot contact time. It is much quicker to strike with the high arch than to let the heel hit and move to the rest of the foot.
You can also increase stride frequency when you do not spend as much time on the ground. Combine stride length with frequency to further increase how fast you run.
3. Injury risk is reduced
Heel striking is responsible for shin splints and other lower body injuries.
When the heel hits first, it inefficiently absorbs a ton of impact. This impact is then dispersed up the leg. The knee, hip, and ankle joints are better at absorbing the impact with a high arch strike.
We can reduce a lot of aches and pains with better mechanics. The amount of stress applied to the lower leg greatly reduces with a better foot position.
Bonus: Some tips to avoid heel striking
-Have athletes run with the same foot contact as jumping rope. The same spot that we “bounce” on when jumping rope is what we want when we sprint. No one jumps rope on their heels
-Use shorter duration sprints. Sprinting for a short amount of time trains the lower legs to handle running on the mid foot. Sprinting for too long of a distance will cause fatigue and likely revert back.
– Take a longer rest period to recover. A longer rest period also allows for fatigue to be managed better. Technique gets poor under fatigue.
-Each sprint should be an all out effort. Sprints should not be jogs. Too many athletes go into a job because they get conditioned too much. They instantly start pacing themselves. Sprint at 100% when it is time.
These tips can help practice a better position which can then be used in a game, practice, etc.