The quickest way to learn the midfoot strike…period!
Midfoot Strike Discovery
Here’s something fun to do to spice up your winter running. I was out running today with my daughter (who was on roller blades) when I came upon a patch of ice on the side of the street that was about 30 feet long and just wide enough to run on. We’ve had a number of windy, single-digit days here in Asheville so the ice was a smooth, solid glassy surface on which to test my running form. As expected I ran across it without a hitch…no slipping or sliding in any direction. In fact if someone had been watching me from a distance, they might not have noticed that I was running on glare ice.
The only way I was able to do this was to land with a midfoot strike and only use my feet for momentary support between strides. If I would have been trying to push myself forward with my feet, they would have slipped out from under me as I pushed off with my toes. Had I been landing with a heel strike, I’m sure I would have been running home with a bruised behind.
I’d never tried this before, but I knew it was entirely possible because a reader had written me an enthusiastic email about something that had happened to him on a winter run in Wisconsin. It seems he had been out trying to keep his footing on some refrozen slush in the road, when he spotted a lake full of ice fishermen. The ice looked clear and smooth (and much more appealing than the crap he was trying to negotiate on the road) so he jumped the fence and headed out onto the ice. He had been practicing his ChiRunning focuses that morning and working on not pushing off with his legs, so the first thing he did when he got onto the ice was just pick up his feet and lean forward a little.
To his great relief, he began to run across the frozen lake like it was a parking lot… accompanied by a very distinct feeling of what it means to run with a true midfoot strike. The only thing he had to do was pick up his feet as he fell forward. He told me that it was the biggest “aha!” moment of his life and from that day on, whenever he felt that he was overusing his legs, all he had to do was run as if he were running on an icy lake and all of his leg effort would instantly disappear.
I don’t know how many of you ever get the chance to run on ice in your street shoes, but I highly recommend it for learning how to not use your legs for propulsion when you run. If you live in a warm climate and have a local ice rink, you might try bribing the manager to let you give it a shot. When you do it right, it’s all gain and no pain.
Posted in Technique