When it comes to endurance, long-distance running as opposed to sprinting short distances like Jamaican gold medalist and record breaker Usain Bolt (100m, 200m), there is not just one way to run.
There are many techniques out there and almost as many variations as there are runners. When watching the men's marathon (yes, I watched the men's marathon, which I guess establishes me as a running geek even if my weekly mileage doesn't), I kept using my DVR to pause the action and try to figure out where these elite runners strike: heel, midfoot, or toe. The answer is all three. The same goes for arm motion and torso placement — the variations are endless. I have been experimenting with where my foot strikes and I shared this information with a running-shoe specialist. I was surprised to hear him say that I would just be trading one type of injury for another as I transitioned from heel strike to hitting the pavement with my midfoot. Ahhhh, I thought, so there really isn't one way to run.
- Toe running: Running on just the forefoot means the calves absorb the shock of the impact. Calf-strengthening exercises are recommended and this style adds wear and tear on the Achilles tendon.
- Heel striking: American marathoner Deena Kastor is a heel-to-toe runner, and in this style of running a shoe that has a soft midsole can create a loss of power in the stride.
- Control: No matter what part of the foot hits the ground first, it is how hard the foot hits that matters. The foot should be controlled into the ground, not slammed.
- Stride length: Most runners naturally fall into their most efficient stride length.
- Arm carriage: The running efficiency of runners tested with their arms tied behind barely changed, so swing your arms as you may!
Runners with smooth, graceful running win races. Runners with bobbing heads win races. Runners who hold their elbows out like they are doing the funky chicken win races. The take-home message for me, a runner who hopes to keep on running rather than win gold, is to do just that — keep on running and not sweat the small stuff (pun intended).