Running Motion for a Midfoot Strike - Chi Running

Running Motion for a Midfoot Strike

Posted by David Stretanski on Mon Dec 14th, 2009, 8 comments

In ChiRunning, the approach is to land midfoot (full-foot) under your column and create a wheel slightly behind your column with your heels/feet. Visually, this running motion is similar to the Road Runner cartoon.

To create this wheel, the focus is to allow the knee to bend and to not consciously lift the knee. Lifting the knee can bring the leg forward; and allow the foot to move horizontally and land in front of the body.  Bending the knee creates an arc with the heel and keeps the heel/foot moving vertically.  See the diagram below showing this orange

When practicing our running form we usually maintain focus directly on an adjustment.  In this case a good exercise to consider is the Knee Bending Exercise.  But there are also many ways to focus indirectly.  Here is an example of an indirect focus. Recently I was out running in a park and I came to a meadow. The grass was very wet. I don’t mind getting my shoes wet but I decided to use the wet grass as a test of my running technique. I decided to see if I could run across the meadow without getting my shoes wet.  This required me to not only be light on my feet but to also create this vertical arc motion with my feet while landing midfoot, peeling my heel/foot off the ground and allowing the knee to bend. This vertical arc motion of my heel combined with the horizontal forward motion of my body creates the wheel. This ‘land, peel and lift’ focus kept my feet/legs from shuffling horizontally – and my feet from landing in front of me. This also kept my feet dry (OK, ‘dry-er’) as I minimized the horizontal contact with the wet grass.

At the same time I considered making as little noise against the wet blades of grass as possible. Even though the grass was relatively high, about 5-6″, my feet stayed relatively dry. I was running with someone (a non-ChiRunner) and the noise, splashing and then resulting sloshing/squeaking/etc from very wet feet was evident. This all due to horizontal motion of the feet – and therefore lots of horizontal contact with wet grass.

So the next time you come to grass (wet or dry), try running across it without making horizontal contact with the blades of grass.  Land vertically on the midfoot, peel the foot and lift the heel vertically. Then, imagine running across ‘wet grass’ no matter what surface you are on.

Please share your thoughts and any questions in a comment below.

David Stretanski
ChiRunning®/ChiWalking® Certified Instructor
NJ/Northeast USA



  • running,
  • injury prevention,
  • midfoot strike,
  • chirunning,
  • midfoot,
  • running form,
  • injury-free,
  • form,
  • alignment,
  • efficiency,
  • injury,
  • technique,
  • running pain,
  • performance,
  • principles,
  • wheel

8 CommentsLeave a comment below

Chi Running techniques “just make sense”.  I appreciate you sharing this one.  I’ve read the book but continue to try and work on my mid-foot strike.  I think I’ve got it but the constant wear on the heel of my shoes tells me otherwise.  Illustrations like this one help, thanks.

Only question I have about the diagram above is that there is not much lean there.  Shouldn’t there be more of a lean for proper Chi Running technique?  Just trying to figure this all out and “get it right”.  Thanks for the info.

I have been applying Chirunning for several months and thought I had it down.  Two weeks prior to my first marathon I developed discomfort in my right ankle.  Nine miles into the marathon the pain was crippling and I dropped out.  I limped for a couple of weeks and had no strength in the foot/ankle.  I even visited an orthopedist.  Within thirty minutes of see me he proclaimed that I had achilles tendonitis and was the result of running.  In his trained opinion running = injury.  By that time I had already reviewed the form focuses and realized in was not knee bending.  By the time of my appointment had began implementing the knee bend and noticed reduced discomfort.  Two weeks after this the foot/ankle discomfort is completely gone.  I am slowly returning for running, but am focused on training for a marathon in February.  My lessons learned are to go slow, review my progress and NOT think I’m doing better than I really am.  Thanks to Danny for laying out the system and allowing me to work out the kinks within the framework of Chirunning.

I have also noticed the lack of noise when I run when compared to the pounding that one of my running buds make.  I even scared a cat the other morning using this same running technique. . .

To me it seems that by “lifting” your foot you are not opening up your stride to the back. I guess you can still lift your feet toward the back, i.e., not straight up.

Comment by Eric Tobias — December 17, 2009 @ 2:21 pm RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

David Stretanski Dec 22nd, 2009 12:53pm

Thanks all for your comments. A little input on them:

# lean
ChiRunning is really much less lean than you might think. If you can brake less, you can lean less. Keeping the ankles relaxed and the feet landing under you results in less resistance to your forward fall (... less ‘brake’). There are four gears, each is only about 1” of lean from the ankles. Leaning your column efficiently from relaxed ankles (hinge) is a significant key.

# noise
The sound you make with your feet tells a lot about how you are interacting with the ground. Try to be the quietest one in the group or to sneak up on people. If there is a skuff, then focus on bending the knees more and make the ankle path more circular. If there is a thump, think ‘up’ to be lighter on your feet. If there is a slap sound, consider more pelvic rotation.

# lifting your heel/feet
ChiRunning is “knees low, heels high”; meaning lift the feet by bending the knee and not lifting the knee. If you lift the knee, the heel comes up under you. If you bend the knee, the heel comes up behind you. Opening the stride up to the rear comes from letting your feet/legs/hips extend to the rear as the heel comes up.

Hope this helps. Congratulations on all of your ChiRunning successes and ongoing practice.

Certified Instructors Blog » Running with a Jan 17th, 2010 11:41am

[...] a previous post (Running Motion for a Midfoot Strike), the ChiRunning motion was described as a midfoot (full-foot) landing with a heel lift/knee bend. [...]

this weeks homework… listen to the sound my feet make as I run grin
So much to learn Thank you!

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