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There Really Is Not One Right Way to Run

When it comes to endurance, long-distance running as opposed to sprinting short distances like Jamaican gold medalist and record breaker Usain Bolt (100m, 200m), there is not just one way to run.

There are many techniques out there and almost as many variations as there are runners. When watching the men's marathon (yes, I watched the men's marathon, which I guess establishes me as a running geek even if my weekly mileage doesn't), I kept using my DVR to pause the action and try to figure out where these elite runners strike: heel, midfoot, or toe. The answer is all three. The same goes for arm motion and torso placement — the variations are endless. I have been experimenting with where my foot strikes and I shared this information with a running-shoe specialist. I was surprised to hear him say that I would just be trading one type of injury for another as I transitioned from heel strike to hitting the pavement with my midfoot. Ahhhh, I thought, so there really isn't one way to run.

The New York Times broke down some of the pros and cons of different running patterns and for the highlights just


  • Toe running: Running on just the forefoot means the calves absorb the shock of the impact. Calf-strengthening exercises are recommended and this style adds wear and tear on the Achilles tendon.
  • Heel striking: American marathoner Deena Kastor is a heel-to-toe runner, and in this style of running a shoe that has a soft midsole can create a loss of power in the stride.
  • Control: No matter what part of the foot hits the ground first, it is how hard the foot hits that matters. The foot should be controlled into the ground, not slammed.
  • Stride length: Most runners naturally fall into their most efficient stride length.
  • Arm carriage: The running efficiency of runners tested with their arms tied behind barely changed, so swing your arms as you may!

Runners with smooth, graceful running win races. Runners with bobbing heads win races. Runners who hold their elbows out like they are doing the funky chicken win races. The take-home message for me, a runner who hopes to keep on running rather than win gold, is to do just that — keep on running and not sweat the small stuff (pun intended).


addywisbef addywisbef 9 years
I am so happy to see this! I started running about a year ago, and I have been tinkering with my stride ever since I started getting mileage under my belt. Other than running with a metronome to even out my stride (I was getting injuries on my right foot and leg because it was absorbing much more shock than my left), my stride hasn't change much despite attempting to follow the advice I found in running magazines and online. It's so nice to see I'm not doing anything "wrong" by following what comes most naturally!
EastVillageAmy EastVillageAmy 9 years
Good to know, I'm a toe runner, I tried to go heel to toe more to work out my hamstrings more but it feels so awkward. Nice to know it doesn't matter now.
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
Frenched! My friend races competitively and her last name is Swift :)
Frenched Frenched 9 years
Is his last name really "Bolt" because if it is, it's really suitable!
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 9 years
I'm a heel first runner and I've always heard that you're supposed to hit the ground with a flat foot. I've tried and tried to do that and it just doesn't work for me so I'm very glad to hear this!
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
tlsgirl: well yes your calves are going to hurt - if you wanted to stick with toe-first running, you'd just have to strengthen your calf and just run like that more often until your body adjusts.
lilCROAT03 lilCROAT03 9 years
i guess it's like trying to change the way you walk. you walk fine right? but we all walk different. i guess i see running that way. i run everyday, but when i run a 8k i run differently because i know i have to keep rythym in my feet so i use a beat to keep me steady. if i'm just training i'll just go with my music. so i guess i'm always changing. which could be good?
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
Funny that you just posted this, since I tried out hitting the ground toe first yesterday, and woke up this morning with my calf in total pain. Guess I'll stick with my normal style and not try to fix what isn't broken.
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