Ask The PT: Transitioning To A Mid-Foot Strike

Changing your running form? Want a “natural” stride? Avoid injury with our tips from our PT.

Q. “I’m changing my running form, by transitioning from being a heel striker to a natural running style. Currently, I’m running in an 8-mm drop shoe.  Between 1.5 and 2 miles into my runs, my right calf starts to cramp. I had to cut down my mileage before I started this process, so I’m wondering if the cramping will correct itself with as I increase my mileage, or whether it is more of an issue with mechanics like maybe landing too far forward on my right foot.”

— New Jersey runner

A. Transitioning from heel strike to a more “natural running style” (I’m assuming you mean more of a mid-foot strike) is never easy to do by oneself.

Feedback is necessary, including verbal, video analysis, and in the mirror.  But, yes, it sounds like you’re most likely landing too far forward now on the ball of foot and not allowing any heel contact at all. If this is the problem, the cramping will most likely continue and you do risk injury.

To fend off injury, practice lightly jumping in place; keep your weight over your shoelace ties and allow the heel to naturally tap down before quickly “rebounding” off the ground.  Get a feel for keeping the ankles relaxed, knees slightly bent, and using the ground reaction force to your advantage. This can’t be forced – that’s the hard part: letting go!

When you’re both jumping and running, make sure your foot drops right under you at contact. Allow your heel to pull upwards; don’t think of it as a “push off” – you’re likely staying on the ground too long if you feel this happening.


Photo Credit: davidd, Flickr

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