3 Ways to Soften Your Landing When You Run

Running injuries are often overuse injuries. What does that mean? An overuse injury is damage that's caused to your body because of repeared force. The kind of force that happens when you make the same movements over and over. As you do when you run. 

Because of this fact, impact is one of the most common causes of running injuries. In fact, injuries such as stress fractures in your metatarsal bone are linked to overuse and impact. The same is true for Achilles injuries, chronic heel pain, or even certain types of arthritis. (Yup, too much running impact can make your joints crumble.) 

Now, that's the bad news. But here's some good news. Putting too much impact on your feet can make your runs hurt. Which suggests that reducing your running impact can help prevent injury. And guess what? Lots of experts agree that making your feet land more softly during a run could reduce your risk of getting hurt.

Ready to change your gait? Today, I'll review three new running techniques. Each one is designed to make your feet to strike the pavement with less force. First up? Chi running!

Chi Running to Avoid Heel Strikes

Here's what your body looks leaning for a Chi Run to soften heel strikes

Have you ever heard that heel strikes cause running problems? If so, it's because heel strike runners put more force on their bodies. That's why Chi Running is designed to change your posture. Because changing your posture helps you avoid heel strikes. And allows your feet to land softly when you run, reducing your risk of running injury. 

Ready to try chi running? Here's what you need to do. First, relax your posture and stand up straight. When you make your body tall, you align your joints. That distributes your weight more evenly across your body. And can help keep you from overloading certain parts of your body when you start running. 

Next, you should lean forward slightly. Now, this move is different then slumping your shoulders or bending your waist. (Two common but hurtful running postures.) Instead, this lean means you've got some help from gravity when you push off. So it takes some pressure out of your push-off stride.) And, when you gently lean from your ankles, it also keeps your joints in alignment as you move. 

Now, about that movement. Once you're lined up and leaning, it's time to run. But you have to think about where your feet land. Luckily, Chi running puts you in the best position for a mid-foot landing instead of a heel strike. This part is important for softer foot falls. Why? Because landing on your mid-foot keeps your feet in line with your shoulders and hips. So all your muscles and joints work together to absorb the impact. 

Finally, start to think about your next step. As soon as your foot lands, it's time to take off. To do so, gently float your heel up behind you instead of pushing off from your toes. Then, as you move forward, try to run using the strength of your core muscles. And do your best to relax your body. Because when your muscles are stiff, they don't absorb shock as well as they should. Meaning your joints could get overloaded and injured. 

Chi running not your thing? No problem. Check out this next technique, also meant to soften the blow of your running stride. 

Evolution Running for Treadmill Training practice Evolution running on the treadmill for softer landings when you run

Evolution Running is a theory that suggests our bodies evolved to run long distances. People who use this system say they run more efficiently, so they can train longer and faster without getting hurt. Like with Chi Running, the Evolution run focuses on running horizontally. That way, you can use momentum to push you forward, so you put less pressure on your feet as you stride. 

Ready to practice evolved running?  Here's how to get started. Every time you step, try landing with your feet beneath. (The key is to avoid feet landing in front of your body. That's why we suggest practicing this method on a treadmill. It's easier to get the position right when you're running in place.)

The next step is a little tricky to describe, but it really works. The key is to move your body forward by pulling your hips back.  This motion helps engage your glute muscles when you run. That strong muscle group takes over from your quads, which you engage when you straighten your knee. And, when you run with your glutes instead of your quads, more of the impact is absorbed higher in your body. Which, in theory, helps you land softly on your feet. 
 

Stride Changes to Soften Foot Falls Choose a shorter stride to soften heel strike and avoid running injury

For the first two techniques I described, you can buy books to help you master the technique. But not everyone wants to read up before running. (Or spend money on a sport that should be free.) So here's one simple way to get a softer foot fall: take shorter, quicker strides when you run. 

To test this technique, focus on taking smaller, faster steps. This motion leaves your feet on the ground for less time. And, because of the quick pace, you'll be encouraged to lightly touch your foot. Then, it only stays there briefly before it's ready to take off once again.

Ok, now that I've walked you through some ways to change your foot strike, I want to back track. I'm hear to say that I get it. While these theories sound easy, I know they can be difficult to put into practice. Especially if you don't have someone who can watch your form and let you know if it's working. 

Luckily, that's where your Houston running podiatrist can help. Worried that the way you run is putting you at risk of a running injury? Come into the office right away. We can schedule a comprehensive gait analysis with Dr. Andrew Schneider. So you can correct your foot strikes and run without pain!

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.