The Effects of Running: On Your Feet

A look at how running affects your feet and the best form for injury prevention

Running is incredibly healthy for you. It strengthens the body, boosts your happiness, improves cognitive functioning and can help prolong your life.

But if you’re running wrong, it can put a strain on your joints and other areas of the body, including your feet. Continue reading to learn how to combat the detrimental effects that running can have on your feet so you can keep this cardio hobby for years to come.

Related: The Most Common Running Injuries, And How to Prevent and Treat Them

Different Ways to Strike the Ground
There are three different ways your foot can strike the ground: with the heel, midfoot or forefoot. Scientists have debated a great deal over which type of footstrike is the best for the body, and a wide range of evidence shows benefits for all types. So, which one is best? The answer is complicated.

Runner’s World points out that a single-minded focus on one type of foot strike is “likely misguided.” That’s because various foot strikes can work for different people depending on the conditions they’re running in, the equipment they’re using and their body type.

For instance, the heel-to-toe method is often seen as detrimental to your feet since your heel makes such a forceful impact with the ground. The forefoot method, on the other hand, allows your Achilles tendon to cushion a bit of the impact, meaning the force is more evenly distributed. However, the right shoes with proper cushioning in the heels can help absorb some of the impact of a heel-strike motion, reducing the chance of injury.

How Should You Run?
Which way should you be running? Again, that answer isn’t as simple as it sounds.

As physical therapist Jay Dicharry points out, “There’s more to it than just the footstrike. Just because you heelstrike doesn’t mean you have bad form.”

“I look at footstrike as more of an effect than a cause in running form,” Dicharry said, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

The problem, he points out, is that most heel-striking runners run with a wide stride length, which could be a bigger cause of strain on the body than the striking method.

One study published in the journal Footwear Science, not surprisingly, showed that footstrike is also more complicated than it sounds. Researchers took a look at the footstrike of trail runners, particularly by studying Kilian Jornet Burgada, one of the greatest trail runners in recent times. What they found was that his footstrike was remarkably diversified. One researcher suggested that by mixing up the foot landings, Burganda is able to adjust the stress level on different muscles, reducing injury and making for a more efficient run.

How to Find Your Best Running Form
Ready to find your running form? One of the best things to do is to let your feet find it for you.

As reports, Peter Larson, Ph. D., tells us that “If you start by changing to shoes with a lower heel or running with a shorter stride length, your footstrike will change, even if you don’t change from being a heel-striker to a midfoot- or forefoot-striker.”

That’s not to say that you don’t need to refine your form from when you started running, but you should pay attention to what form techniques affect how your feet feel.

Related:4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Posture While Running

Start by purchasing a good pair of running shoes and by shortening your stride. Don’t be afraid to test out different footstrikes to see how they feel. Ultimately, you should run based on how your body reacts to the impact. Talk with a physical therapist or coach to better refine your movements and find a running form that suits your body and equipment.

How has footstrike-mindfulness impacted your running form?

More Reading:
How to Stop a Side Stitch ASAP
How Running Changes Your Body
The Common Cause of Running Injuries Most People Overlook