Which Part of My Foot Should I Land on When Running?

Runners in race
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"I tend to run on my toes, but someone told me it's better to land mid-sole. Where should I land when running?"

Yes, the middle of your foot is the best place to land when running. You should land mid-sole and then roll through to the front of your toes.

You want to avoid being a heel-striker. If you land on your heels, you are stopping your forward momentum and causing undue stress on your knees. Landing on your toes causes your calves to do too much work, which can lead to shin splints.

Running on your toes can also lead to bouncing, which is an inefficient way to run.

To determine what type of footstriker you are, pay attention to which part of foot you're landing on when you're running. You can't change your footstrike overnight, but you can work to gradually work towards landing mid-sole. If you're a heel-striker or toe-striker, here are some tips to try to (gradually) change your footstrike:

  • Be careful that you're not overstriding. Make sure that you don't lunge forward with your feet. Focus on landing on the balls of your feet, with your foot directly underneath your body with every step. A short, low arm swing is the key to keeping your stride short and close to the ground.
  • Most people will naturally land mid-sole when running barefoot. So practice running on carpet, grass, or turf with no shoes for short periods of time, so your body can find its natural stride. Start with 30 seconds at first and work your way up to a minute or more. This doesn't mean you should run barefoot all the time, since that could lead to injury. But running short intervals on a soft, safe surface allows you to practice mid-foot landing.
  • Running drills such as butt kicks, skipping, high knees, running backwards, or side shuffles are another great way to practice mid-foot landing. When you do any of those drills, it’s impossible to land on your heels. So, the more you practice them, the more you’ll be accustomed to landing on the front part of your foot, as opposed to your heel. You can do running drills as part of your pre-run warm-up or work them into your run. For example, you could intersperse 30-second intervals of high knees or backwards running every 4-5 minutes during a 30-minute run.
  • You can practice changing your footstrike during shorter runs at first, and then work your way up to doing it during longer runs. Don't worry if you don't see an improvement overnight. It can take months of practice before you're able to run that way consistently.

Learn more about proper running form.

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