Four ways for runners to reduce their heel strike

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Heel strike is prevelant in 90 percent of runners and can cause injury

Heel strike is prevelant in 90 percent of runners and can cause injury

Around 90% of runners actually run with a heel strike technique and recently this seems to have received much attention. We do know that the heavier the heel strike, the greater the shock that is produced between the heel-bone and the ground, as opposed to a forefoot strike, (landing on the balls of the feet), that results in a more cushioned stride. Excessive shock then passes up through the leg and body and must be absorbed elsewhere, which can result in injury at joints other than just the ankle. But changing from a heel strike to a forefoot technique can cause more problems if not done cautiously, and in some cases it probably isn’t a good idea at all because of the additional stress you move to other tissues.

If you are suffering from joint, tendon or muscle injuries, then you may find that simply reducing your amount of heel strike has a significant impact on the recovery of an existing injury. There are ways to subtly do this without going ‘barefoot’ which poses risks to various muscles and tendons that may not yet be up to the job.

Check out our 4 safe and easy tips to reduce your amount of heel strike:

  1. Run at an optimal cadence

Try to keep your cadence, (the number of steps you take each minute), between 170-190 – that’s around 3 steps per second. Too low a cadence often results in a longer stride, hence a heavier heel strike. Too high a cadence however, and you take too many steps and end up wasting energy, so try to keep within the range of 170-190 unless you have a specific running goal.

  1. Reduce the cushioning under your heel.

It might sound a bit odd, but trainers with a large heel cushion trick the brain into thinking it doesn’t need to protect the foot, hence a more ‘stompy’ heel strike which ultimately leads to more force impacting upwards through the heel bone and leg.   Selecting shoes with less of a downwards ramping towards the toes can be very helpful, but be careful to reduce the heel height gradually as your body can take months to adjust to each change. Ask an adviser in a specialist running shop if you aren’t sure what to look for!


  1.  If on a treadmill – raise it up!

I wouldn’t advise a large amount of treadmill running but if you can’t brave the winter weather make sure you have at least a 1-2 degree incline and avoid a flat run! This takes the ‘bounciness’ out of the treadmill, but also, by having an incline, you reduce the impact through the heel and share the load through the rest of the foot.


  1. Try to ‘run quietly’

This one you just have to go and try for yourself, but trying to ‘run quietly’ really cushions your stride. You may not be able to sustain this for a particularly lengthy run, but if you can build up in 1 minute increments you could do yourself some good.

Chiropractic for runners

When you hear the term ‘chiropractic’ you may just think of back and neck pain right? Our Chiropractors at Dixon Health specialise in assessing biomechanics throughout your entire body, and we will consider parts of your body other than just the area of pain. Dean has a particular interest in helping runners and has firsthand experience of managing the common aches and pains you get as a runner whilst he trained for his 70.3 mile triathlon!

The most common running injuries we regularly see and treat are: Achilles tendinopathy (tendinitis), shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome), knee tracking problems, hip, low back and pelvic problems.

Some of the treatments we may use to get you back on track include (literally!):-

  • manipulation or mobilisation of joints in the spine and limbs
  • soft tissue and trigger point release
  • acupuncture (dry needling)
  • ultrasound therapy
  • specific rehabilitation exercises and/or stretches

For an injury assessment or to have your biomechanics check with one of our Chiropractors, call to book an appointment on 01225 862140 (Bradford on Avon) or 01380 729103 (Devizes) or you can book online here