To avoid running injuries, you need to avoid heel striking when you run because the list of heel striking injuries appears to be never ending. The high impact associated with a heel strike running style is linked to many muscle, tendon and bone injuries than can be easily avoided if you change your running style to forefoot running. Here are examples of the injuries caused by heel strike running.
Heel Striking Injuries
Metatarsal Stress Bone Fracture – Landing heel to toe when running was found to alter plantar pressure distribution in a way that puts too much stress on the metatarsal heads.
Common Knee Problems – The peak impact and compressive forces produced at heel strike attacks the knee cartilage and may cause knee osteoarthritis.
Broken Hip Femur -That’s no typo: runners who heel strike, especially over long distances, have too much impact force travelling through their leg, which may increase the risk of a femur fracture!
Achilles Injury – Heel strike runners use their foot too aggressively with the ground, leading to increased pronation and high stress and strain on the Achilles tendon.
Lower Leg Pain – Runners who heel strike tend to complain about leg cramps, this is because heel strike running increases lower leg intramuscular pressures.
Heel Pain – Because the heel pad is strong enough for walking, but not running, heel strike running reduces blood flow in the heel pad, leading to heel pad deformations.
Ankle Inversion Injury – Because landing on the heel triggers the foot to move around abnormally during stance, this intensifies stress on the ankle.
Low Back Pain – The high impact of heel striking doesn’t just affect the leg, it comes up through the hip and into the back as well.
Degenerative Joint Disorders – Because your joints are overloaded with impact when heel strike running, this greatly imposes repetitive trauma on the joints.
ITBS – In heel strike running, the foot spends more time on the ground, especially more time spent in the impingement range of knee flexion angles, placing high strain on the IT band.
How Heel Strike Causes Injury
Here are the specific ways heel strike running mechanically contributes to many of the common injuries that inflict most joggers.
High loading – Increases the rate of loading beyond tolerable biological limit.
Impact Peak – This is makes your knee and hip joints hurt.
Heel-Strike Transient – The main reason heel strikers get injured.
High Ground Reaction Forces – The high ground reaction force is what separates heel strike from forefoot strike running in that this force is probably the number one reason heel strike runners get plagued with so many chronic injuries.
Compressive Forces – At heel strike, in addition to the ground reaction force, a massive compressive wave is naturally generated and is linked to ITBS
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BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.