Look at the difference between the same runner wearing shoes versus barefoot, and the position of her feet as they’re about to make contact with the ground.
[These are images have not been staged, directed or altered in Photoshop. You can find these two images on popular micro-stock photo sites, ie. dreamstime.com]
On the left: The runner will heel strike; thus causing a jolting, braking action with each step.
On the right: A gentle landing on the forefoot; thus allowing the arch to do it’s job, flex and push back.
What causes heel strike? Why is heel strike bad?
A shoe has a positive (raised) heel. This cushioned heel causes you to not feel the impact on your feet (thanks to the foam, air, gel, etc.) therefore perpetuating bad running form. “Wow, this is a soft ride, feels good…” Not to mention that the heel is usually so thick you can’t help but strike with that part of your foot first. It’s bad because the jolting/braking action causes running related injuries. TRY THIS AT HOME: Run around your house or backyard in your shoes, take note how you land. Then try the same barefoot, see the difference?!
Here’s a great post from ChiRunning explaining in easy to understand terms the difference between: heel strike form, midfoot ‘land’ and forefoot ‘land’ (you won’t ‘strike’ but ‘land’…)
I used to be a heel striker (thanks to my shoes), but now midfoot land during training tempo runs. And of course as nature intended, forefoot land during faster speeds or running uphill.
Happy running… oh, and toss away those heels, would ya?!