I’m sure you know that ‘heel-strike’ is a bad thing; not only does it waste energy, but the shock of landing can contribute to a multitude of injuries, from the foot to the lower back. So why do some runners land so heavily on their heels?
I’ve been doing some data mining, correlating different aspects of gait in the many runners we’ve analysed. You’ll probably not be surprised to know that running low and over-striding come out as the #1 ’causes’ of heel-strike: tired runners, upping their mileage for the marathon, or simply new to running and not having sufficient endurance to hold their style, are particularly prone to a low carriage and loping gait.
#2 in our list is the ‘foot left behind’ gait. This is where the runner fails to bring his leg forwards smartly after take-off, and is associated with a low knee-drive and weak hip flexors. This is something that sprinters are acutely aware of, because landing badly drastically affects their speed (see Tony Hadley’s talk on The Need For Speed on UCoach, links below).
The amount of heel-strike also depends on how fast you are running, and when we video runners in bare feet, they usually manage a much better foot plant – a good reason to try some bare foot running! However, those who run low and leave their feet behind invariably end up heel-striking, even in bare feet!