Heel-strike pain is a common problem among runners and people who spend much of the day on their feet. There are many factors that can influence the problem, but the most common ones include foot-strike, shoe type, bad form and over-running. Body weight and stride length may also contribute to the problem. However, there are ways to prevent heel strike pain altogether.
Experiment with your foot-strike. Runners use three types of foot-strikes: heel-strike, mid-foot strike and toe-strike. The jury is out on which is most efficient and safest, but we do know that heel-striking can have the greatest impact on your feet and knees. If heel-striking causes you pain, you may want to adjust slowly to a different running style.
Stretch regularly for better control over your foot-strike and stride. Tightness in your hips, quads, hamstrings and ankles can be a major cause of unnecessary impact as you run. Stretching these muscles after every run will improve your range of motion and may reduce all sorts of aches and pains.
Buy supportive shoes and in-soles designed for heel-striking. If you heel-strike naturally and want to stick by it, then purchase your footwear accordingly. Shoes with the right kind of padding will go a long way toward mitigating heel pain.
Check your running shoes for wear-and-tear. The life-span of every shoe is different, especially depending on the running surface. If the tread is wearing thin, or you feel that the padding in the mid-foot or heel has become too compressed and isn't supporting your feet any longer, replace them immediately. Running in old shoes can be just as damaging as running in the wrong ones.
Glide as you run. To maximize the efficiency and safety of your run, try not to bounce too high or land too hard with each stride. Bounciness, which is often caused by jogging or running too slowly, can put excessive pressure on your foot-strike as you land. Run slightly faster to match your speed to your stride.
Keep your stride even and don’t swing your legs too far forward. A steady, consistent stride is much less likely to cause foot injuries. Don't lunge too far ahead on each stride to decrease the impact and pressure on your heels when you land.
- National Library of Medicine: Plantar Fasciitis
- SportsScientists.com: Running Technique: The Footstrike
- NASM.org: Running Shoe or Minimalist Shoe?
- BarefootRunning.fas.harvard.edu: Biomechanical Differences Between Different Foot Strikes
- NYTimes.com: When to Retire a Running Shoe
- ChiRunning.com: 10 Components of Good Running Technique