A Cure for Foot Slapping

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I was recently asked, for the umpteenth time, a question that deserves a good answer.

“When I concentrate on striking mid-foot and keeping my
lower legs very relaxed, it feels and sounds like my feet are slapping the pavement much harder than before.  Is this normal, or does my form still need correcting?”

For many first-timers to ChiRunning, learning to run with a midfoot strike is a very new experience. The new way your feet touch the ground, along with a distinctive full-bodied tilt can take a little time to get used to. What happens for some folks who are working on a midfoot strike, is that they notice their feet tend to slap the pavement more then they used to. If this happens to you it’s a sign that you’re on the right path to getting a midfoot strike, but it’s also a sign that there’s more work to do in other areas of your stride.

Here’s what I mean. Most people are used to swinging their legs forward when they take a stride…whether they’re walking or running. What this does is create a heel strike where your heel then becomes a fulcrum and your foot slaps down onto the pavement with each step. Not only is a heel strike unhealthy for your knees, the slapping can bruise the metatarsal heads and make your feet feel like they’re on fire.

In the ChiRunning and ChiWalking techniques, the foot strikes under your center of mass in a midfoot strike. This eliminates a heel strike and shortens your support time. The legs are always swinging to the rear, which noticeably reduces the amount of impact to the knees. When many people first try the midfoot strike they tend to focus more on the landing than on what the rest of their body is doing. The way to get rid of the slapping is to work on your pelvic rotation, which is mentioned on pages 179-180 of the ChiRunning book, and also mentioned at the top of page 82. In the ChiWalking book it is explained and illustrated on page 87.

As your foot hits the ground under you, your leg begins its rearward swing. Your leg then extends out behind you and when your foot returns to its original support position, it’s underneath you again…not landing out in front of you. As long as your foot never lands in front of your body, the slapping will go away.

Here’s the trick. Every time your leg swings out the back, let your hip swing back with it. This will force your hips and pelvis to rotate in the direction your rear leg is swinging, creating a healthy twisting motion along your spine. Your stride will open up behind you, as it should, and you’ll experience a new sense of smoothness in your gait because your legs will no longer be swinging forward which causes foot slapping.

Happy Trails,


Posted in Technique

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