How do I know my foot strike when running?

The shoes on your feet when you run will affect your training more than any other piece of kit. Get it right and you’ll draw the maximum out of yourself, get it wrong and fatigue, discomfort, and quite possibly injury are waiting to pounce. Your foot strike is as personal as your body shape, so what works great for your friend isn’t a sure thing for you! The sure way to know your foot strike; how you distribute the stress of your running stride through your feet, is Natural Gait Analysis. Now, if you can’t make a trip to one of our stores let’s sort out the basics for you…


Heel or Toes?

Observe yourself running round the block at a normal pace, what part of your foot hits concrete first? If it’s your forefoot, toes, outside of your feet but away from the heel then you’re going to do well with Minimal Shoes, no need to have a chunky heel of cushioning if you’re not landing there, or Neutral Shoes as it’s unlikely you’ll need support under your arch. You’re a ‘forefoot’ striker and probably a nifty sprinter into the bargain! Go to Neutral Shoes.

If you strike at the heel we’ve got more questions for you…

Had blisters under the arch when running? Prone to shin splints (sharp pain down the front of your legs) or niggling knees? Chances are you over-pronate and need some guidance to keep your feet and knees aligned. Have a look at your bare feet, standing upright, just tilting you head enough to see your feet – or check in a mirror – are your arches are a bit flat to the ground? That further suggests you’ll benefit from support in your shoes. Head to Support Shoes. If this has left you going ‘Oh, I don’t know, there’s elements I recognized here but…’ then stick with the Support Shoes but check the descriptions and go for mild support.

Neutral Runners and Supinators

Okay, you’ve probably only read this far if your feet are as neutral as Switzerland. So, Congratulations, you hit the genealogical jackpot :-) Chances are your foot strike is balanced, not putting pressure on one side or the other. Neutral Shoes will suit you well, or you can try Minimal Shoes if you fancy transitioning to forefoot running. If you’ve got particularly high or ridged arches you may belong to the rare breed of Supinators – where you put a lot of pressure down the sides of your feet and the ball of your foot barely gets a look in. This can result in shin splints as impact shock ricochets up your legs – a flexible, well-cushioned Neutral shoe will still be best.


This should give you a general idea. It’s only a guideline and there are exceptions to every rule, so where possible come and visit us. Meanwhile, if you’ve any comments or questions get typing below, I’d love to hear from you.

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  • Linda CraddockNovember 6, 2015 at 4:59pm
    Hi there, I am constantly plagued with blisters on the outside edge of both feet near my big toes. I have tried changing my laces, changing my trainers but still constantly getting blisters. The longer the run the worse they are. If I run 3 - 5 miles my feet are okay but as soon as I do 10 -13 miles my feet are a mess at the end of the run - sometimes even blood blisters.

    Do you recommend I pay you a visit?

    Regards Linda Reply
    • Shankara SmithNovember 7, 2015 at 1:27pm

      Hi Linda,

      Nothing will put you off your running like recurrent blisters! The cause will be linked to the motion of your foot through each stride. The best thing would be to come in with your current running shoes and let us see what's going on and try to find a solution for you.

      Shankara

      Reply
  • DebbieMay 6, 2016 at 11:19am
    Hi
    I'm a forefront runner but have suffered with heel Achilles tendonitis and have read that this is due to forefront running plus been advised by a reputable sports physio that this is the case. I have been advised to get full heel support trainers and not to wear flat shoes generally, however the advice above on this page indicates that forefront runners need neutral trainers. I am confused.
    Cheers
    Debbie

    Reply
    • Shankara SmithMay 9, 2016 at 3:58pm

      Hi Debbie,

      I understand your confusion, figuring out the cause of an injury can like following a complicated maze.

      The majority of people who land on their forefoot will be ably protected by a neutral running shoe. However, there are some who flick quickly and powerfully inwards as the weight travels from the outside of the foot towards the big toe metatarsal, this can result in extra force going through the joint, moving the foot into an over-pronation position. This rapid movement can end up tweaking the achilles every time you land. Without watching you run I can't be confident this is what's happening to you but it would be a rational conclusion.

      It is tricky to find the correct shoe for someone who over-pronates and is a forefoot landing runner. The shoes have to support but also flex in exactly the right place for the individual, otherwise the support doesn't feel comfortable and often doesn't even work well. I would strongly recommend you to make a trip to one of our shops so we can check out exactly what is happening and make sure you get the right shoes to aid your running and recovery. If that's impractical due to your location, then look for an independent (they tend to have better trained staff than the multi-nationals) running shop in an area convenient for you.

      Hope this helps

      Shankara

      Reply
  • AmandaJuly 15, 2016 at 4:30pm
    Could you please recommend a trainer which will support me running and aerobics. I need support for achilles problems as this is the area I struggle with most many thanks
    Reply
    • Shankara SmithJuly 16, 2016 at 10:52am

      Hi Amanda,

      Although not designed with aerobics in mind, most running shoes will perform well for that exercise. The only area of concern is that the uppers of running shoes are lightweight and not really reinforced, so if there are lots of sideways slides they can take a bit of a battering. Assuming your aerobics is more keeping you on your toes and bouncing rather than sliding, running shoes should be fine.

      An achilles problem suggests you may need some arch support; if the arch collapses in when weight goes through the stride this tugs at the achilles and can cause aggravation. Ideally we need to see you and use Natural Gait Analysis to ascertain how best to support your achilles, and feet, but if this is impractical for you I'd take a gamble on Brooks Ravenna 7, Saucony Guide 9 or New Balance W860 V6, all of which offer nice arch support whilst still being flexible (good for the aerobics) and well cushioned.

      Shankara

      Reply
  • DavidAugust 6, 2016 at 8:08pm
    Hi.
    Trying to find some trainers that are comfortable.
    I am 5ft 10 and 18st 6lb. Having lost approx 3.5 stone in weight through dieting.
    I am starting more vigorous exersising and I now take part in our local park run on Saturday mornings which I thourouly enjoy as well as walking 5k every day.
    I have a wide "toe box" and standard trainer tend to crush my outer toes.
    Although I go to "park run" I usually just walk as fast as I can but now want to start jog walking and build up my strength and stamina. When I have been walking fast for a while I get pains up the front of my shins. Also when I have tried to job in short burst I feel that all my weight is landing heavy on my heals and causing did comfort in my ankle joint.
    Looking at a pair of my street shoes the outer part of the heals have worn away significantly more than the inner part. I also walk with my feet pointing out.
    Unfortunately I can not see that you have a store near me PR9 8QE.
    I usually wear size 10 shoes.
    What type of trainer could you recommend
    Regards
    Dave Reply
    • Shankara SmithAugust 10, 2016 at 12:26pm

      Hi Dave,

      Congrats on your weight loss and fitness improvements, it's great that you're walking 5K a day and the right running shoes should really help you to incorporate more running.

      I think I know what's causing the pain in your shins (shin splints). If your feet point out as your walk you don't get as much support through your stride - your legs are moving straight forward but your feet are pointing away from that line causing the weight of your body to move over your ankles/arch, so the ball of your foot has the weight of your stride moving across the side of it rather than straight over. It's a bit hard to explain but hopefully it makes sense! This means there's more rotation through your foot and your calf muscles end up working a bit harder to keep everything moving correctly. When the calf gets fatigued and tight it pulls on the attachment to the shin, causing pain.

      The way your day shoes wear indicates heavy heel striking, which makes sense, so good cushioning is going to make the ankles more comfortable. Add in good arch support and your feet will have some help to overcome the strain on your calf muscles.

      As you have a wide toe box, need good cushioning and support, the shoe that jumps to mind is the New Balance M860 in the 4E width.

      Ideally you'd get a proper gait analysis and fitting from a specialist running shop (there is Natterjacks in Southport, I'm not familiar with the shop but it is a specialist) but if that's not possible then the M860 would be the one to try.

      All the best

      Shankara

      Reply
  • Lynette TuckerSeptember 5, 2016 at 8:44pm
    HI, Do I need an appointment or can I just turn up? Reply
    • Shankara SmithSeptember 6, 2016 at 12:06pm

      Hi Lynette,

      All our staff are trained in the Natural Gait Analysis, so there's no need for an appointment. Just pop in when it's convenient for you. Best to allow about 30 minutes for the fitting.

      Shankara

      Reply
  • HelenSeptember 20, 2016 at 11:19am
    I would like to visit your shop this coming Saturday. Do i need to make prior arrangement for shoe fitting?
    Regards Reply
    • Shankara SmithSeptember 20, 2016 at 11:57am

      Hi Helen,

      All our staff are trained in Natural Gait Analysis, so no appointment is necessary, just come on by when it's convenient. It's good to allow 30 minutes for the process. Saturdays can get busy, so if you're able to make the morning rather than the afternoon you may find that more comfortable.

      Best
      Shankara

      Reply
  • JemmaOctober 19, 2016 at 5:07pm
    Hi I am looking to come and visit one of your shops for advise on a running shoe. I don't really have any issues with my feet but my knees grind a lot after running and I find i over use one leg/side throwing me off balance/ putting strain on my lower back. I've stopped running because of this and I'm missing it! I'm desperate to get back into it and I'm happy to invest all that I need to to help minimise the post run aches! P.s when you do the running assessment is it in store with lots of people around? I'm a bit shy/new and running and wouldn't mind coming at a quiet time of day if you can advise me when!
    Many thanks! Reply
    • ShankaraOctober 21, 2016 at 9:58am

      Hi Jemma,

      Your situation with your running fair is not unusual, most of us will favour one side of the body over the other and this can cause a bunch of injury challenges. Certainly getting the correct shoes for your feet and overall body motion is going to help but when you come for the fitting do explain the issues you've been having, our staff will be able to advise you on what extra things could help. That could be introducing some core exercises into your routine or seeking further advice on your running technique from Chi running instructor Balavan Thomas.

      As for being a little self conscious about the fitting process, I totally understand. Rest assured our staff are very caring and far from intimidating. Our quieter times tend to be weekday mornings.

      Best
      Shankara

      Reply
  • BenDecember 14, 2016 at 12:05pm
    Hi,
    Thanks for the article unfortunately I don't seem to fit into any of the catagories so was wondering if you could advise. When I run I tend to strike the ground with the balls of my feet mainly on the right hand side. However I also overpronate quite a lot and I have been using the New Balance 1260 for the last few years and they have been great. Unfortunately I now need a new pair but they are too expensive so am looking for an eqivalent. I have tried the 860's by the same company but have been plaqued with new pain since I started using them, I was told they are for heel runners so I don't know if that is the reason or just a coincidence. Ssomeone recommended a few pairs to me:
    Saucony Guide
    Mizuno Inspire
    but I am loath to waste any more money so any advice would be much appreciated.
    Best regards
    Ben Reply
    • Shankara SmithDecember 15, 2016 at 12:28pm

      Hi Ben,

      I would really recommend that you come into one of our branches (or if that is impractical then a good running specialist) to have a Natural Gait Analysis fitting. As you've discovered, buying shoes on guess work often proves problematic and costly. The motion you describe is not uncommon but does mean you need the perfect blend of support and flexibility. As you've got on well with 1260 you may find the Saucony Hurricane works. I'm not convinced Guide or Inspire would be right as they are more controlling than 1260. The issue you face is over-pronation happening in a very short area, most will start at the heel and pronate over the arch but you'll be doing at the forefoot and the movement will be very quick. So you need the flexibility as well as the support.
      Hope this is of some help

      Shankara

      Reply
  • DaveFebruary 16, 2017 at 4:13pm
    Hi
    I think I'm about due for new shoe's, my current one's being NB 860v5. There's considerable wear on the outside of the right heel and again on the outside edge of the forefoot, with minor knee niggles and minor soreness at r/hand lower shin which comes and goes. I seem to have problems trying to speed up and maintain a faster pace, I'm just wondering if it could be down to the shoes and something's out of kilter, and better new shoe's would help my running a lot? Perhaps a gait analysis and fitting would be highly beneficial.. thanks..
    Dave.. Reply
    • Shankara SmithFebruary 16, 2017 at 6:35pm

      Hi Dave,

      As the 860 is now on version 7 I'm guessing your shoes are anything from a year to two years old, as such it's likely that they are getting worn out – not just in cushioning but also in balance. From the issues you've described it is hard to know if the shoes are simply worn out or if they're not providing the best support for your running style but as it's highly likely that they are at the end of their life it would be best to invest in a new pair, fitted properly to your running movement.

      Whether that will solve the knee niggles and slight shin splints – good chance new shoes will help – or the speed issue – less likely sadly, no Supersonic shoes yet – I can't say. New shoes, properly fitted, will offer better protection but if your tendons and muscles are already fatigued, tight, struggling to recover from training, then shoes can only do so much. I would recommend you look at your stretching routine after training, and your training schedule as a whole, the fact that you're struggling on speed indicates over-training or a build up of stiffness is at least part of the problem.

      Good luck

      Shankara

      Reply
  • ClaireFebruary 26, 2017 at 7:45pm
    I have hip bursitis which has developed since I started running. I have a pair of Asics patriot 8 trainers. I had gait analysis and they said I land on the outside of my foot and roll in slightly. I also have an issue where my big toes have rubbed on the mesh of the trainer and caused small holes. I have only had the trainers for 5 months. Are you able to recommend trainers for me? Reply
    • Shankara SmithFebruary 27, 2017 at 12:17pm

      Hi Claire,

      I'm sorry to hear you're having such issues with your running, it can be so frustrating when all you want to do is excercise and enjoy it. So, let's see if we can help get things sorted.

      The most ideal thing would be for you to come into one of our branches and let us look at exactly what's going on and test you in some shoes. If this is impossible then here's what I'm thinking. The Patriot is a very basic running shoe which doesn't offer any support for the moderate over-pronation I suspect you experience – landing on the outside and rolling in slightly. If the holes in the shoes are above the big toe on the uppers, that backs up my theory of mild over-pronation. Your hips are obviously taking more strain than we want. The lack of support in the shoes could be part of the problem here but it could also be lack of stretching/cushioning or just over doing it. I suggest you try these stretches.

      For the shoes, it is hard not being able to see you run but these are ones that would be up for contention: Brooks Ravenna 8, Saucony Guide 10, Asics 1000, New Balance W860 v7, Brooks Vapor 4. Of which the two Brooks ones have a bit of extra protection over the big toe area and should be more resistant to holes coming through the material.

      Good Luck
      Shankara

      Reply
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