Most people discuss the two most common ways to run faster by increasing stride frequency or increasing stride length. However, I feel the key to running faster is landing stiffly on the pad of your foot. The more time that you spend on the ground, the slower you will go. It is simple – fast running is not done on the ground but in the air. If you have not worked your entire body to incorporate speed and explosion, you will not perform very well or you will get injured.
When I am running faster, my foot lands stiffly on my foot pad (the area between the toes and the arch of your foot). This area is commonly referred to as the “ball of the foot” which has a fatty pad that protects the five metatarsal heads and provides a nice cushion when you land. When you run fast you are putting 100% of your body weight on this specific area. When I say landing “stiffly,” I mean that my heel does not hit the ground. I am trying to reach out in front of my body as far as I can and still land on the foot pad; thus , decreasing my time on the ground. Landing on your heel is like putting on the brakes due to your leg being straight and spending too much time on the ground. A variety of injuries (from your foot to your back) can occur if you continue to land on your heel. Once I land on the pad of my foot, I explode forward and up with almost a bounding feeling.
The best way to find out how you land is to take your shoes off and run. See if you land on the ball of your foot, your heel, or flat. A soft flatter landing (still hits the foot pad first but allows the heel to touch) is good when running slowly and with a shorter stride length as you do not want to run with a stiff landing unless you are elongating your stride length. If you continue to land stiffly with a short stride length, this will create a sheering effect as your femur pushes down in front of the tibia creating knee pain.
Please spend time strengthening all your muscles, ligaments, and tendons (especially in your legs and feet) before trying this stiff foot pad landing. Please visit www.BodyProtection for your copy of the exercises and movements to create the strength you need to become an explosive, fast runner.