“barefoot” footstriking to protect the Achilles tendon

Ran 6km hill climbing with minimalist shoes and remained completely clear of Achilles tendon symptoms. Following the idea in yesterday’s post I tried to land on the heel – but without reaching forward with the feet. Ever since starting with barefoot technique it has been made clear to me from many sources that heel striking is out due to the lack of protection. All of the theory given regarding shock absorption appears to support this assertion.
I ran landing more or less on the heels – but without reaching ahead with the feet. The interesting thing here is that it was easy to control forward lean and propulsion from gravity and because the heel did not strike ahead of the body there was no feeling of significant impact, shock or after-shock. I can only suggest that this is because it is heel striking with a minimum of braking effect involved.
The second modification to technique that I made was to be sure to roll off the forefoot and toes actively extending the ankle to effectively lengthen the stride behind the body. As well as lengthening the stride this would prevent any stretching of the Achilles tendon. On the descent this helped when lengthening out the stride to work with the naturally higher speed.
Despite not having done any running in minimalist shoes or with “natural” technique for a month now there was no aggravation of the Achilles tendon and no reaction from the calf muscles. It also demonstrates to me that all the coordination and feedback advantages of natural technique can be maintained without forefoot striking and without hurting the heels.
Danny Dreyer in ChiRunning advocates striking just in front of the heel – I’m kind of wondering if this is what he really means – not a “point of contact” but the part of the foot that you aim with to land right under your centre of mass. Just standing still you can lift a foot off the ground then depending on how you flex or extend the ankle you can, when putting it back down, alter the part of the foot that hits the ground first and where it hits the ground. To my surprise Dryer has turned out to be correct about almost everything else he writes about – so this is potentially another one.
When we see treadmill demonstrations of how people naturally switch to a forefoot strike when they take off their running shoes – dramatically changing from hard heel striking with the feet reaching way ahead – to no heel contact whatsoever – it has always struck me as potentially “auto-suggestion” – the idea having been planted in the mind prior to the experiment.

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