Avoid striking the pavement with your heels—save that for your power walks. “When you walk, you keep one foot in contact with the ground, while running has a moment of weightlessness in the stride,” says Alex Figueroa, a running coach and creator of Priority1 Wellness in Miami Beach. Running with a heel landing can contribute to back and knee pain.
Landing on your forefoot (instead of your heels) allows your muscles to catch the weight of your body in flight, reducing the effects of impact on the joints and bones, says Figueroa.
Leaping forward while you run is inefficient and an energy drain. Instead, stand tall and lean forward, and when you feel like you are going to fall, step forward just enough to catch yourself. This should be the length of your stride. It takes less energy to fall than to reach your foot in front of you.
Less motion through the joint means less wear and tear and improved efficiency during your runs, says Figueroa. Using a shorter stride reduces the movement within any joint (for running, this means the joints of the ankles, knees, and hips), and less movement means a longer, healthier life for these joints.
The human body works with one major premise: use it or lose it. If your support is coming from an external source, like your shoes, then the muscles designed to support the framework of the foot (i.e. the arches), will eventually fail to do their job, making the foot weaker and your body more prone to injury.
“When it comes to support, less is more,” says Figueroa. Build up to wearing shoes with minimal support, like NIKE Free or Vibram Five Fingers, to help strengthen and develop the natural muscular support in your foot and ankle. But don’t toss your sneakers just yet – slowly begin by running, one block at a time, with less support to gradually strengthen the muscles in your feet. Developing foot strength can help make everything stronger, including your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back, says Figueroa.
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