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I've had trouble with shin splints, my IT band, and extremely sore ankles / knees before from long runs before.

In order to try preventing this, I've switched landing on my heel while running to landing on the balls of my feet. Does this help lead to a proper running form? Should I try something else?

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What do you consider a long run? What is your weekly mileage? How old are your shoes? –  JohnP Feb 19 '13 at 14:35
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I don't think there's a one size fits all answer to this question and without analyzing your gait, I probably couldn't give very specific advice either. –  Ivo Flipse Feb 19 '13 at 15:20
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I don't know where you reside. But you should check into your local athletic training/sports science offices. We offer a service where you spend time with an Athletic Trainer and have a Motion-Captured Gait test that the professionals go over with you to determine what is the most efficient way for you to do "X." The test can also help the Trainers identify deficiencies in your bio-mechanics. –  Grohlier Feb 19 '13 at 19:47
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These answers on running form may interest you: Form, Improving Form, Other considerations, Injury factors –  BackInShapeBuddy Feb 19 '13 at 21:24

3 Answers 3

"Proper running form" is much more comprehensive than just the foot strike. Running with a fore/mid/heel strike are all valid IF you're not suffering as a result and the rest of your mechanics are sound. Focusing on foot strike alone will not yield a more efficient run. It is my opinion (after several years of running and trial and error) that getting your body mechanics in line is the most important focus. Your foot strike will naturally evolve into what works best for you. Here is a good article (if slightly dated) on The Science of Sport that talks about foot strike.

Head Tilt

Your head is key to your overall posture and that determines how efficiently you run. Look ahead naturally, not down at your feet, to straighten your neck and back and bring them into alignment.

Shoulders

Shoulders play an important role in keeping your upper body relaxed while you run. For optimum performance, your shoulders should be low and loose, not high and tight.

Arms

Your hands control the tension in your upper body, while your arm swing works in conjunction with your leg stride to drive you forward. Keep your hands in an unclenched fist, with your fingers lightly touching your palms. Your arms should swing mostly forward and back, not across your body,between waist and lower-chest level. Your elbows should be bent at about a 90-degree angle.

Torso

Holding your back straight allows you to run in an efficient, upright position that promotes optimal lung capacity and stride length.

Hips

Your hips are your center of gravity and when combined with proper torso position they keep you pointing straight ahead. Tilting your pelvis can put pressure on your lower back and throw the rest of your lower body out of alignment.

Legs/Stride

Efficient endurance running requires just a slight knee lift, a quick leg turnover, and a short stride. Together, these will facilitate fluid forward movement instead of diverting (and wasting) energy. When running with the proper stride length, your feet should land directly underneath your body. As your foot strikes the ground, your knee should be slightly flexed so that it can bend naturally on impact. If your lower leg (below the knee) extends out in front of your body, your stride is too long.

Here are some articles on general proper running form that will provide addiitonal insight:

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Would you mind summarizing some of the content from these links and preferably explain why you should do so? –  Ivo Flipse Mar 12 '13 at 18:32
    
I'll get that done ASAP! –  Chuck Mar 12 '13 at 20:24
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+1 Nice work, that looks much better! –  Ivo Flipse Mar 12 '13 at 22:33

I am not a good runner. I am definitely not a distance runner. My foray into running styles was an exercise to manage a minor knee injury. So my running style is entirely to do with injury prevention.

I've tried forefoot running, but that gave me very sore calfs. I can't say that it is wrong. I still tend to land more on my forefoot if I sprint. Still a big improvement on my legs and knees.

At my gym, the trainer has adopted the Pose method. As far as I understand, this encourages a mid-foot landing. As far as comfort and injury prevention goes, this has been the best method for me. Be aware, the Pose running website is really bad and looks like a scam. But worth a try if injury prevention is your main goal.

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Landing on the ball of your foot will help prevent shin splits, and promote better running form. It is better to start slow when switching form though, as landing on the ball requires more work for the calves; you will be sore for a little while, so start with shorter runs. You may wanna look into barefoot or minimalist running shoes as they naturally encourage that style of running; without the extra cushioning, you won't land on your heel.

For your IT band, the best thing to do is strenght training and stretching. You need to build more muscle in your legs; think squats and ballet-inspired leg raises (that's what the physiotherapist had me do when I injured mine). You should also get a foam roller to massage the area, it helps a lot. Yoga once or twice a week works for both strenght and flexibility.

Ankles and knee pain after long run can either be because you have increased your mileage too fast, or you need new shoes. Take some advil, elevate and ice the area if it's painful after the run, but if it's sore for more than 1 day, you should consider slightly shorter runs and increasing your mileage gradually (no more than 10% increase per week).

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Taking NSAIDs such as Advil and/or using ice has a negative effect on the lymphatic system's ability to remove damaged tissues from the area, and should be avoided (source). The proper treatment is MCE: Movement, compression, elevation. –  Doc Feb 20 '13 at 18:27
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-1 for blindly throwing spaghetti advice at the wall in case something sticks. –  JohnP Feb 20 '13 at 20:52
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@Doc, it's not yet consensus to avoid anti-inflammatories. There are many conflicting studies. –  Kate Feb 21 '13 at 1:00
    
@Kate I linked one that says they should be avoided, can you link one that says the opposite? –  Doc Feb 21 '13 at 1:03
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@Doc: startingstrength.com/articles/misinflammation_sullivan.pdf A meta-analysis of inflammation vs anti-inflammation research, with a good appendix listing studies on each side of the issue. –  Kate Feb 21 '13 at 1:26

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