Thursday, April 16, 2015

How to PR by Run Technique: Series IV

In Series IV "How to PR by Run Technque", we will discuss the stride cycle and the controversial foot strike. 

Push-Off. In triathlon, it's emphasized to have quick turnover, especially coming off the bike. However, while this is true, we can't ignore the fact that the foot should take time for the initial loading of power to occur for push-off. The foot should land neutral with the ankle. This is when the loading should occur. Often times we over emphasize "quick feet" before the loading of power has occurred. One big mistake that is made is that we never let the heel touch the ground.  Doing so allows the achilles and calf to come to a full stretch to provide elastic energy to propel forward. If a runner tries to be too quick with their feet, the power is lost because the foot and Achilles were not fully engaged to release energy. In addition to the ankle extension, you have heard other runners and coaches tell you to lean forward.  This comes from a lean in the ankle and not at the waist or in other words, a slight lean from the ground.

Hip Extension.  Once your foot has contacted the ground, the emphasis should shift to the hip and you basically just want to think of it as moving the whole thigh backwards. The hips is where most the power comes from and not all of it is from the push-off phase. Think of the hip as your crank set: The faster you try to go the more powerful and quicker the the hip extension needs to be - similar to a set of bicycle cranks. Most runners, especially new runners, do not come close to a full force hip extension. It will take some time, but eventually you will learn how to do a proper hip extension while running at different paces. After the hip extension has occurred,  the recovery phase immediately starts and acts as a sling shot propelling you forward. If you try to force the recovery phase then your stride will slow.

Knee Drive is powerful and occurs at the end of the recovery phase. You will see many distance runners and triathletes with hardly any knee drive, and they lead out from the heel.  This results in some serious over striding where the foot is out in front of the body as seen in most recreational runners. The knee drive is extremely powerful for a sprinter (short distance/fast race) and is still required in distance running, just not as pronounced because it will cause you tire much sooner. Ideally, the the knee drive in distance running should become second nature so that it is a passive movement through the running cycle of the stride.  The ideal landing of the foot is under the center of the body and directly under the knee. This will put your foot into an optimal position with the best force production and reduced risk of injury.

Foot strike is one of the most controversial topics right now. Heel striking in particular gets a bad wrap.  It has led us from minimalist shoes to barefoot running (I've never seen a Kenyan turn down a pair of running shoes) and now back to those big Hoka's that look like moon shoes (I'm not hating, my wife has a pair). I'm going to share with you what I've gathered from my own research, observation, and understanding. Heel striking is OK! I'm sure I just caused excruciating pain to the ears of the barefoot and minimalism runners. Heel striking is ok as long as your form is nailed down to everything above.  But be sure you are not over striding and that your foot is landing underneath you in direct line with the knee.  In fact most elite runners will have a natural, light heel strike.


Distance runners should aim to land on the mid to forefoot, like in basketball (when the ball player jumps, the heels will land and the calves load to jump) you go back down to your heels for the push off (loading phase). All this happens rapidly and is hardly noticeable when everything is in motion at once. It would take a slo-mo cam to really see it all in action.

If you enjoyed this series so far on "How to PR by Run Techniqe", the closing message will teach us how all these tips I've given you is actually just one unit and how to change your running mechanics. If you have any questions please email me at  

Thanks for reading!


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