Initial body alignment is a key part of producing enough force during the start of a sprint.
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A slow motion video of any world-class sprinter makes it appear as though he has achieved human flight, his toes barely skimming the ground as he skates to the finish line. However, imitating these athletes can be dangerous. There are three correct ways of hitting the ground with your foot as you run, and it is important to understand the risks and benefits of each and experiment to figure out which is best for you.
Hitting the Ground
Despite the perception that the fastest runners hit the ground through their toes, a "New York Times" article found that this wasn't true. In a study published in "The International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance," almost 94 percent of the participants proved to be heel strikers, including some of the fastest runners. However, another study demonstrated that toe strikers distributed the impact differently through their legs, funneled through their ankles and Achilles tendons rather than through their knee joints.
The Heel-Strike Force
Heel striking is considered the natural way to run by experts, and the evidence definitely seems to support this -- the vast majority of new runners often run this way. However, heel striking sends a large, instantaneous force through your body that can cause significant injury over time. Running shoes do their best to mitigate this, but cannot completely protect your foot.
The Middle Ground
Landing on the balls of your feet is the ideal compromise between speed and safety. Because the force generated by the strike is spread over a larger surface area, the impact is significantly less than what is generated through a heel strike. However, midfoot striking requires more energy than heel striking or toe striking, making it an inefficient choice for longer runs.
Finding Your Balance
Although toe striking may seem like a shortcut to speed, leaning too far forward on the forefoot results in poor form and a loss in energy and efficiency. Sprinters who appear to be running on their toes are often redistributing that weight through the ball of their feet and focusing on arm action.