From heel to toes: 12 Weeks on from the start of the new plan

Follow on from this article

Summary of what I am trying to achieve:

  • Change from heel to mid foot strike with the aim of improving running efficiency and reducing injuries – Whilst….
  • Increasing training volume in training for longer ultramarathon races (100Km+).

Starting back at the end of April I have been on a training plan that blends increasing running load but also aspects of conditioning and technique to “naturally” adapt my strike pattern.

What did my foot strike look like back when I started?

Look at that beautiful heel strike, could almost be the wikipedia image definition of it!

What does my foot strike look like now?

Other than losing about 4Kg between the videos let’s have a look at the results so far.

Let’s start with the actual objective which was to get a more natural feel that would improve efficiency and reduce injury. Simply put in the last 12 weeks I have more than doubled my running volume, been consistently doing 6 days a week including trail running with lots of height gain and I have not had to take any unplanned recovery. No shin, calf or knee issues.

Is that all because of changing foot strike, probably not, having a well planned training plan in place, stretches and recovery routine are definitely going to help but anecdotally I can see a difference.

Let’s do some math… well use a protractor on the screen!

Trying to actually determine how far you are in this journey is difficult to say the least, especially without a complex pressure sensing footbed for detailed analysis. But we will make do with our slow motion camera footage, some still images, lines and a protractor to tell us what has changed.

After some playing around decided to look at the angles of the knee and then the foot to the floor as the key metrics for this. This is because they should show us roughly what kind of strike we are about to get.

In the heel strike the leg is often nearly locked out, giving us a knee angle of nearly 180°. The toes are basically point up a bit, almost like presenting the heel to the ground so the angle between the foot and the road will be above 0°.

When the strike is mid foot we should see the foot to floor angle reach 0° and on a forefoot strike the angle will be negative because the toes/forefoot is touching first. Enough talk lets have a look, here is my foot strike on week 0:

Leg is nearly locked out, toes pointing up – classic heel strike.

Here is the foot strike after 12 weeks of the plan:

Knee is much more bent on impact, by about 13° (8% more) and foot to floor angle is about 13° less than it was before (52% less).

So is the plan working?

The short answer is yes.

Amount of heel strike, or severity is has dropped by about 50%, it is still not a good mid foot strike yet but it is much better. Also what is positive is the knee being bent on impact, this means that my legs are absorbing more of the force like a spring rather than using my shoes cushioning to absorb all the force.

Next Steps

Basically the plan is working, I am transitioning nicely, not suffering too much with calf or arch issues which happen on this type of strike pattern and most importantly I have not had to reduce my ultramarathon training plan to accommodate. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

I will continue to add more barefoot running volume to each week with the aim of being up to 5km solid by the end of October (currently at 2.5Km) and work on my stretches and conditioning I wrote about here.

The main questions will be going forwards:

  • Will the benefits plateau or continue? Only time will tell and I will evaluate again in another 8 Weeks.
  • Has my cadence changed? This was something I wanted to measure but I have tried comparing it and the data is so all over the place I am going to have to work on a method to look at the information in a better way – watch this space!

Thanks for reading now go on, just f’ing run!

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