Every runner wants to run faster and farther while staying injury-free — and improving running technique checks all three of these boxes. Foot strike is one of many components of proper form, and whether you’re a heel-striker, over-pronator or anywhere in between, optimizing your foot strike can be your ticket to getting to the front of the pack.
FOOT STRIKE 101
Every runner has a slightly different foot strike pattern based on their speed and technique, as well as other factors like running surface and footwear. But every stride has some combination of landing and toe-off (i.e. how your heel, midfoot and forefoot hit the ground), combined with supination (i.e. rolling to the outside of the foot) and pronation (i.e. rolling to the inside of the foot).
It’s common to see runners overpronate or underpronate, which can make the ankles, knees and hips cranky. While a neutral foot strike position is ideal, there must be some degree of supination and pronation with every stride.
Aside from working with a coach who can evaluate your running gait, aim to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the hips, knees and ankles while running. A strong and mobile lower body leads to better foot strike for faster races and fewer aches and pains, so check out these three exercises to help you control pronation and supination.
IT’S ALL IN THE HIPS
Pronation and supination are movements of the ankle, but it all starts further upstream at the hip. The hips move in lots of different directions, but the position of the femur (the thigh bone) inside the hip socket plays a huge role in what happens at the ankle at foot strike. The glutes are the most important muscle group for keeping the femur centered snugly in the hip socket, so training the glutes in the gym is a must.
What’s the best way to train the glutes for better foot strike? Teach them to be strong when landing on one leg at a time. Here are three exercises that do exactly that.
EXERCISE #1: SINGLE-LEG BAND HIP STABILITY
The first step toward a better one-leg landing is to practice standing on one leg. The 1-leg band hip stability exercise teaches the glutes to contract and keep the hip stable in a similar position to when your foot lands during each stride.
EXERCISE #2: BOWLER SQUATS
The next step is to challenge the glutes to stabilize the hip while going through a greater range of motion. If you’re not careful, your ankle will roll into supination and pronation, which is exactly what you’re trying to control while running.
EXERCISE #3: SINGLE-LEG HOP TO STICK LANDING
Finally, you must train the glutes to absorb the shock of landing on one leg at a time. Think of each running stride as a mini-jump as your hips control the landing. Remember to feel each rep in your glutes and hamstrings, not your ankles or knees.
Put all these exercises to work with this sample strength training routine:
Warm-Up (like this one)
- Single-Leg Band Hip Stability: 3 sets of 15 seconds per side
- Bowler Squats: 3 sets of 8 reps per side
- Single-Leg Hop to Stick Landing: 3 sets of 5 reps per side