What Running Shoes Should Heel Strikers Wear?

When it comes to running, each person has their own unique stride and foot strike pattern. One common foot strike pattern is heel striking, where the heel makes initial contact with the ground. 

Selecting the right running shoes becomes crucial to minimize the risk of injuries and enhance performance. In this blog post, we will delve into the factors to consider when choosing running shoes for heel strikers and provide recommendations on the best available options.

What is “Heel Striking?”

Heel striking occurs when the heel is the first part of the foot to make contact with the ground during the running stride. While it is a common foot strike pattern in many runners, it is not without its potential risks. 

The impact forces experienced during heel striking can lead to increased stress on the joints, such as the knees and hips, and potentially contribute to injuries like shin splints and plantar fasciitis. Therefore, heel strikers must select running shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning to minimize the impact.

Key Factors to Consider

1. Cushioning and Impact Absorption

One of the primary considerations for heel strikers is the cushioning and impact absorption capabilities of running shoes. A well-cushioned shoe can help dissipate the forces generated upon heel strike, reducing joint stress. Look for shoes with ample cushioning in the heel area, using materials such as EVA foam or gel to provide effective shock absorption.

2. Heel-to-Toe Drop

Heel-to-toe drop refers to the height difference between the heel and forefoot of a shoe. A higher heel-to-toe drop can be beneficial for heel strikers as it allows for a smoother transition from heel to toe during the running stride. Look for shoes with a drop of around 8-12mm to promote a more natural gait cycle and reduce strain on the calf muscles and Achilles tendon.

3. Stability and Support

Heel strikers often benefit from running shoes that offer stability and support. Look for features like medial posts or firmer midsole materials that help control excessive inward rolling of the foot (overpronation) and provide enhanced stability. Additionally, shoes with a secure heel counter can help prevent the foot from slipping or rolling during the gait cycle.

4. Flexibility and Responsiveness

While cushioning and stability are essential, it is also crucial to consider the flexibility and responsiveness of the shoe. Look for shoes that balance cushioning and flexibility for a more efficient toe-off phase. This can help propel the foot forward and enhance running performance for heel strikers.

5. Best Running Shoes for Heel Strikers

Considering the factors mentioned above, here are some of the top running shoe models suitable for heel strikers:

  • New Balance 880: The New Balance 880 is a top choice for heel strikers, offering superior cushioning and durability. Its Fresh Foam X foam midsole cushioning and moderate heel-to-toe drop provide optimal support and a smooth transition, ensuring a comfortable and injury-free running experience.
  • Brooks Adrenaline GTS: The Brooks Adrenaline GTS is popular among heel strikers due to its excellent stability and support features. It offers a cushioned and responsive ride while providing sufficient support for overpronation.
  • ASICS GEL Kayano: ASICS Gel-Kayano is a highly cushioned running shoe that provides excellent shock absorption and stability for heel strikers. It features ASICS' Gel cushioning technology and a supportive 4D GUIDANCE SYSTEM to enhance comfort and reduce the risk of injuries.

Remember, individual preferences and needs may vary. Try different shoes and consider comfort, fit, and personal running style. Consulting with a professional running shoe specialist or undergoing a gait analysis can provide valuable insights and personalized recommendations.

Additional Tips for Heel Strikers

Apart from selecting appropriate running shoes, here are some additional tips to optimize your running experience as a heel striker:

Focus on Proper Running Form and Technique

Pay attention to your running form and aim for a midfoot or forefoot strike, gradually transitioning away from excessive heel striking. Engage your core, maintain an upright posture, and ensure a quick turnover of your feet to reduce the impact on your heels.

Strengthen Supporting Muscles

Incorporate exercises and stretches that target the muscles in your lower legs, such as the calves and ankles. Strengthening these muscles can improve overall stability and support, reducing heel strain.

Gradual Transitioning

If you want to transition to a different foot strike pattern, such as forefoot or mid-foot striking, do so gradually. Gradual transitioning allows your body to adapt to the changes and reduces the risk of overuse injuries. Start with short distances or intervals and progressively increase as your body adjusts.

Finding the Perfect Shoes for Heel Strikers

Choosing the right running shoes is vital for heel strikers to minimize the risk of injuries and enhance performance. Consider factors such as cushioning, heel-to-toe drop, stability, and flexibility when selecting running shoes. New Balance 880, Brooks Adrenaline GTS, and ASICS GEL Kayano are among the top recommended models. However, foot shape, size, and gait variations play a significant role in finding the perfect fit. 

Experimenting with different shoes and seeking professional advice can help you find the ideal running shoes tailored to your needs. With the right shoes and proper running techniques, heel strikers can enjoy a comfortable and injury-free running experience. So lace up, hit the road, and make every stride count!