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How do I safely change my running mechanics to avoid injuries

Question: How do I safely change my running mechanics to avoid injuries

I switched from running on my heals to running on my toes (balls of my feet)and noticed that I seriously supinate. I also have tibial torsion way more in my left leg leading to a crooked gait. What can I do to avoid running injuries? I run with great joy and passion and have been experimenting with barefoot running shoes, but have had a number of knee, ankle and foot injuries over the years. Do you have any advise other than using orthotics to help me avoid injuries.


Hi, I've popped your question on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Sorry to hear about your injuries.


From Kim Kurray on Facebook.

"Transition very slowly, gradually building up the amount of 'barefoot' running over a couple of months. Your muscles and gait should naturally adapt over time"


You must be a true neutral runner to transition into a forefoot running style, otherwise, it will accentuate the over or under pronation. I am a heel striker and underpronater and could not adequately adapt to a forefoot running style (my calf muscles would tighten up bad as well).

I also started on balance and proprioception exercises to improve medial and lateral kinetic chain balance and have worked to become a "light heel striker" and it lessened my supination. I may never be a true neutral runner, but I have definitely improved my running form. Some people are just not genetically made to be "barefoot" runners.


My only comment is that faster, shorter steps will reduce the effect of any problems with running style.


Well, you've probably taken the first step towards reducing your chances of injury already - habitual heel strikers are twice as likely to get injured as fore foot strikers.

In my opinion the best way to learn to run with good form is barefoot, or minimally shod in thin soled shoes without any elevated heel or toe spring. But it's not enough just to stick on some Vibrams - it's a specific skill that you unlearned from all the miles wearing trainers. It needs to be re-learned.

Learning to barefoot run effectively is a slow process - your feet will be very weak from a lifetime of wearing shoes, so you can't expect to just dive straight in - that's when injuries tend to occur.

Start with just being barefoot/minimally shod. Walking round the house, at work, to the shops etc - anywhere you can! Start doing toe exercises too, all the time, this is key.

To learn to run you want to be totally barefoot on a hard, flat surface that's free from debris - the best teacher is the combination of gravity and ground reaction force. Skipping is a good way to start - most people naturally land properly when skipping barefoot. When you start running keep it really short - 1/4 to 1 mile every other day at most in the first week. Increase this by no more than 20% a week.

Your cadence needs to to be 180 steps per minute - get a metronome app on your phone, shorten your stride and make sure your foot lands under your body, not reaching out in front of you.
Most people run bent forward at the hip - imagine you are being pulled forwards by the pelvis to remedy this and keep upright with your shoulders relaxed.
It also helps to imagine peeling your heels up off the floor to get the proper hamstring action happening.

Obviously without seeing someone run you can't be sure exactly what they need to do differently - but the above tend to be the most common errors and solutions.

If it's painful, stop. You can use supportive insoles after a run when your feet are fatigued. Expect your calves to be sore after runs - they need to adapt. Don't run again 'til the soreness goes. Stretch after runs. Most of all ENJOY IT! Experience your body as it's designed to function.

Always consult a physician before undertaking a new exercise programme and for best results get yourself a running coach and see your osteopath/manual therapist regularly to keep you functioning properly. This post is for information only and not intended as advice as individual circumstances vary.

There are some people who shouldn't try barefoot/minimally shod running. Anyone with reduced sensation to the feet (like diabetics, people with neuropathies) or people with significant foot deformities will need the protection shoes provide.