Midfoot strike 5 year old running barefoot in grass.
So, heel strike you say ? Have a closer look. This is a near perfect midfoot strike. What you cannot see is his torso progression. As long as the torso has enough forward lean heel strike cannot occur. Heel contact can occur, but not heel strike or impact.
We have talked about this on many occasions here on The Gait Guys Blog. No one else is talking about this fine line difference between heel strike and heel contact. Everyone still seems hell bent on talking about forefoot strike. Forefoot strike in distance running is not normal, midfoot strike like you see here in this young child is natural and normal. This 5 year old was likely just asked to run barefoot, he was not likely coached. This is because midfoot strike is natural and normal. As we said, as long as the torso is directly above or in front of the foot contact position there is no way that heel STRIKE can occur, rather heel CONTACT can only occur (unless you have hamstrings like cirque du soleil acrobats and do not mind going into a posterior tilted pelvis at contact).
We tell our runners to:
- lift the chest and lean
- raise the toes and dorsiflex the ankle (engage the anterior lower leg compartment) so that the arch is maximally prepared
- a heel KISS of the ground is fine, just no impact
- you do not need to forefoot strike to run naturally
- * and, here is one more reason why we like a midfoot strike over a forefoot strike…. because a midfoot strike means that the body continues forward whereas a forefoot strike that then allows into a heel kiss/touchdown means that there is a posterior progression and eccentric lengthening of the posterior chain (hamstrings and calf muscles). This posterior directed motions is not exactly wise when forward progression is the goal of running !
This little fella is doing it right. Largely because he has not been in shoes long enough to corrupt the natural tissues and mechanisms (both the body parts and the natural neuromotor patterns).
* Addendum: after a really productive FAcebook dialogue with some readers we felt we needed to be more clear on some of our unspoken assumptions here. If the heel hits first, it will be a STRIKE and not a KISS and the load will be high. The only way the heel can kiss the ground like we mention above is if the heel is absolutely contacting at the same time as the forefoot, one could say that there is a more dominant load on the mid-forefoot but the heel can still strike at this same time. Striking clearly on the forefoot and then touching down the heel is satisfactory but there is still a retrograde movement which we believe is not as economical yet certainly better than heel impact/strike. To get the perfect midfoot strike with barely a subtle heel CONTACT (not impact or strike) requires greater skill and more mastery as a runner. And if you are wearing a shoe that is not minimalist or zero drop developing this skill will be a challenge and you will be misleading yourself. This ammendment added 1 hour post blog post launch.
Shawn and Ivo…….. the Devil is in the Details.