If you're going to go through the trouble of waking up early for your morning run, you shouldn't let poor technique keep you from getting the most out of it. Good running technique, especially correct foot placement, is essential to avoiding stress injuries and worn-out legs during a run. Your feet are designed to propel your body and absorb impact with every stride. Consciously correcting foot placement while you run will elevate your workout and keep you healthier.
Different runners have different kinds of feet. Your feet can be neutral or pronated toward the inner or outer edge. In a runner with an overpronated foot, the arch collapses fully on the inside edge of the foot. This redistributes the propulsion of your stride to the more flexible areas of your foot on the inside edge, which is less efficient and can lead to sore muscles in the feet. In a supinator or underpronator, the runner lands on the outside edge of the foot, which is rigid and inflexible because it is designed for propulsion. This quickly leads to stress injuries because of impact in the foot and calves.
Both overpronators and supinators absorb less impact than a neutral runner's foot will. With proper running technique, the runner lands on the middle of her foot. As the arch collapses, impact is absorbed and transfered to the front of the foot and the heel evenly, without jarring the inflexible areas of the feet and calves. Over time, impact from an incorrect stride can tear at ligaments and muscle and create microfractures in bones, which can take weeks to heal.
Correct Foot Placement
For correct foot placement, land evenly on the middle of your foot, keeping your weight centered on your hips just behind the leading foot. This is commonly referred to as a midfoot strike. As you step, your weight and impact should be distributed evenly on the midfoot. As you complete the step, your foot will drift behind your center slightly and push you forward into the next step. More runners are injured when incorrectly shifting their foot placement forward than when they run on their heels, so attempt this process gradually. Never try to point your toes into a stride.
Other Foot Issues
A distance runner's stride can make or break a longer run like a marathon, but the type of shoes you wear can have just as big an impact on a successful workout. Make sure you visit with a sports clinic or podiatrist to determine what type of foot you have. If you do pronate, get running shoes that are specifically designed to correct these issues with flexible soles and generous padding in the area of impact. Overpronators will need a shoe designed to support the arch, while supinators need more cushioning to reduce impact on the rigid outer edge of the foot.
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.