Running Technique: Foot Release on Landing
I am returning to this topic because I want to clarify the meaning of this important element of running technique within the Pose Method framework. First of all, allow me to explain what I mean when I say ‘release’. If you watch a runner, any runner, you will notice a certain level of effort and stiffness at the ankle and foot area of the airborne foot that’s about to become the support foot. It is a very common way to think of this part of the running cycle – landing is important, it must happen correctly, I must help it speed up by pushing the foot down. However, nothing could be further from reality of what’s happening.
Landing will happen whether you want to or not, with or without your effort, whether you’re ready or not. Keeping that in mind, isn’t it more logical then to simply let it be and direct your focus and efforts elsewhere? Somewhere where the effort is indeed needed?
The transition between the running poses is when the runner has the most chances to mess up and break the evenly flowing cycle. It is vital to complete one cycle and smoothly start another. Remember that in running, especially in sprinting, there is no time to think, give commands to all your muscles and attempt to control everything. That’s why drills are so important. You must practice, practice, practice so during the actual running, during the race, the event – you simply run.
The only thing that should be held and controlled is the running pose. Everything else should be allowed to be, follow it’s own trajectory/path, stay nimble and relaxed.
1 – To Minimize Effort
One of them is minimizing to almost nothing any preparation for landing, with no muscle work for this matter, no special movement of the foot or the leg. The most important thing there would be to have no mental focus on the foot tracking as to where to place it properly and in what proper foot position. It is a kind of fear, which we experience on the subconscious level. So we have to get rid of this concern. But it is impossible just to decide to do so. The conventional “wisdom” is deeply ingrained in our mind, and to get rid of it we have to “substitute” it with something else. And this “something else” is the action of pulling the foot from the ground.
2 – To Prioritize & Focus
When our focus on pulling the foot from the ground becomes the dominating factor (an action), then everything else becomes subordinate to this action. It includes:
- timing of the support and nonsupport movement of the body and its parts,
- muscle efforts and
- the perception of our running as the whole movement
In essence, the pulling action ‘organizes’ the whole running cycle. But we should be careful not to overdo the pulling action, too, because then we lose the foot release, as well. Try to just break the contact with the ground and give the foot the freedom to move through the entire air time by momentum until the next ground contact, instead of continuing to pull the foot up under the hip joint. This overacting has many negative consequences such as muscle tension, excessive range of motion slowing the cadence and forcing landing.
3 – To Prevent Injuries
The above described situation leads to the breaking of timing cycle of the foot movement, when the foot doesn’t reach the ground on time. In order to compensate for this delay the body usually forces the foot to move to the ground faster. As a result of this “action” the foot landing velocity is higher than the body’s velocity, so the foot, in layman terms, just hits the ground. I guess, I don’t need to explain where it leads. This rushing the foot to the ground could also be explained by the desire to shorten the time of the ground contact as well. It confuses many runners who do not understand that landing is, first of all, landing of our GCM (General Center of Mass of the body), which goes down just by gravitational pull and we can’t increase the velocity of GCM going down to Earth, no matter what kind of distance we run, sprint or marathon. I can add here that the vertical oscillation of GCM of the best sprinters and marathoners is the same, about 4-6 centimeters, which means that they are falling basically from the same height.
There is one more seeming contradiction between the two rules of Pose Method: to keep the body weight on the ball of the foot and not to focus on landing. Keeping the body weight on the ball of the foot is just a perception, but not an action, but it helps us to pull the foot from the ground on time. We have to connect the pulling action with this perception as two interrelated things in the running cycle. The loss of perception of the body weight on the ball of the foot (the feeling of pressure on the ball of the foot) is also a signal or sign of terminating (finishing) the pulling action and releasing the foot.
Understanding and improving running technique is part of the Pose Method Certification Course. Designed for health and fitness professionals, it is also a great starting point for anyone looking to become a coach. This seminar offers 16 CE hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists.