I'm 16 years old, and I've been running for... Well, my whole life, I guess. During all that time, I've constantly been running on my toes. It's not just during sprints we're talking about here - it's whenever I go faster than normal walking-pace. It comes to me as natural as for everybody to run on their heels! Though, I've noticed, even though I can hold for long, I get tired a tad faster than most of the others at my level. I know it's due to me running on my toes, because the pain normally evolves in the achilles and on the sides of the gastrocnemius muscle. Now, my dad's doing this too, and he has had some troubles because by this (severe achilles tendon rupture, for example) and I'm afraid this might just happen to myself.
Can somebody here tell me the pros and cons of running constantly on your toes? Is there anything good about it at all? I'm aware that it's normal under sprint, but not for normal jogging. Is there anything I should do about it? Any special excercise to do? I've been trying to run "normally" lately, but it just feels wrong and weird, though I can hold out for much longer (we're talking I can run good for 20 miles and then needing a short break)... Should I keep trying to get myself to run on my heels again? Hopefully you "professionals" can help me
PS: I've been using Nike Skylon pretty much all of the time. I'm considering trying a new brand, anything to recommend?
I don't know how much "on your toes" you're running, but a lot of people describe forefoot striking as running on your toes. There is certainly nothing wrong with forefoot striking, in fact, it is central to a couple of running "systems", and a lot of people think it's a good and efficient way to run. Take a look at this article, courtesy of Jim Haselmaier: http://jimhaselmaier.blogspot.com/2010/05/pose-method-vs-chi-running-vs-evolution.html, particularly the Pose and Evolution methods, both of which, I believe, advocate a forefoot strike. You may learn to refine your forefoot strike and to prevent potential ankle and achilles problems by studying one or both of these two. ChiRunning is another good system, but it uses a midfoot strike which would mean changing what you do naturally. Since you already have a forefoot strike of some kind, I think you would be better off refining that. Though if ankle/achilles injuries become an issue, midfoot may be worth trying. I would absolutely not advocate that you switch to heel striking. There's no advantage to it, it's not natural to you and it's a big change. There's just no good reason to do it. Work on strengthening and stretching your heel/ankle/achilles/calf and learning the best way to plant forefoot.
I think one thing to consider is whether you're running on your toes with an "active" or "passive" landing. I think I've read some things that say active forefoot landing (i.e. you activate the calf upon landing and use your calf muscle to deliberately control the motion of the heel toward the ground after the forefoot strikes the ground) can have some pretty bad consequences on the Achille and calf. "Passive" landing, on the other hand (this is what Pose Method advocates) means you land with a completely relaxed set of lower leg muscles. Neither the shin muscles nor the calf musces are contracted in any way. When this is done the forefoot will touch the ground first (if the landing is under the hips) and instinctively some muscle activation will take place, but you don't even notice or have to think about it. If your foot is under your hips the heel will likely just barely "kiss" the ground.
Is it possible the injuries are from an active landing?
"Kick off your high heel sneakers, it's party time."
-- From the song FM by Steely Dan
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