5 drills to re-wire foot-ground contact for runners

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A common running technique fault is the heel strike (I’m defining this as a fault because this technique will lead to a larger disposition to injuries). CrossFit Endurance and Pose Method have provided sufficient coverage and explanations of why heel strikes are bad for runners, yet most athletes will attempt to wear shoes that “protect” them from their heels strikes instead of trying to fix the technique. Why? Because habits are hard to break. And who doesn’t want a new pair of kicks? Chances are you have never actually had someone analyze your running technique when you first started to run, so you have probably developed an inefficient movement pattern. That being said, I will show you some progressive drills on how you can rewire portions of your foot landing technique.

When running, the human body will naturally want to land and move from the Ball of Foot (BOF).How can we determine this? Through analyzing the body’s pain response to movement when using areas other than the BOF. Here is the test: while standing bare foot, jump in place. If you are landing predominantly on your toes, you will feel your calves begin to get taxed and tired. If you are landing on your heels, you will feel the jarring sensation in your bones and joints. Chances are you most comfortable when landing and moving from your BOF. So why wouldn’t you do the same when running?

Here is a video of five drills you can incorporate into your warm-up to learn how to “rewire” your movement mechanics so that you naturally land on your BOF. These are basic drills that you can execute in place, no need to actually start running just yet. Again, the point of these drills is to get you reacquainted as to where your BOF is and to naturally land there. After the video there is a description of each drill.

 

Always maintain good form.  Here is your starting position checklist, from the ground up:

  • Feet directly underneath your hips
  • Knees slightly bent
  • Upright torso w/active core
  • Arms relaxed at the shoulder and bent to at least 90 degrees at the elbow
  • Relaxed hands (potato chip hold)
  • Neutral spine, head alignment, and gaze on the horizon

As far as cadence, you should aim for at least 90 (or 180 steps per minute). Use a digital metronome or app to help with this.

Two Feet Bounce In Place – From the starting position, bounce up and down on the BOF. Heels should slightly kiss the ground. Perform 15-20 reps.

One Foot Bounce In place – From the starting position, pull one leg to where the ankle is in line with the opposite leg’s knee. Ankle should be relaxed to where the foot “dangles”. Bounce up and down on one leg, maintaining balance throughout. Heel should slightly kiss the ground while landing on BOF. Perform 10-15 reps per leg.

2:1 Pulls – From the starting positing, alternate bouncing off of two legs and pulling one leg directly underneath your hips landing on BOF. Height of of pull should be approximately the height of the opposite leg’s knee. Both heels should slightly kiss the ground while landing on BOF. Perform 10-15 reps per leg.

1:1 Pulls – From the starting positing, alternate bouncing from one leg and pulling on the opposite leg directly underneath your hips landing on BOF. Height of of pull should be approximately the height of the opposite leg’s knee. Both heels should slightly kiss the ground while landing on BOF. Perform 10-15 reps per leg.

Hip Openers – From the starting position, widen stance to approximately shoulder distance. Bounce up and down using both feet while simultaneously swiveling your hips from left to right. Heels should slightly kiss the ground while landing on BOF.

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