This is also known as "Heel Striking"
And here's how it slows you down...
[Heel Striking : Slowing down your runs since forever]
A very common sight among runners, even the seasoned ones, heel striking happens when the first and full brunt of impact from each step is hit to your heels, which places a very heavy burden on your heels rather than your entire feet. I've mentioned earlier that this is a very common situation that happens to most runners. In fact, a study done by the Medical College of Wisconsin who observed the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, found that 93.7% of the runners were heel strikers and the faster runners during the race were not heel strikers.
While a lot of writer have an opinion that it is natural to heel strike, it is to my opinion from my own experiences that it is not actually beneficial for heel strikers but rather damages the runners in the process. Here's why:
You are naturally stopping your own momentum - Simple logic would say that by heel striking, you are basically "putting the brakes" on each step you make during the run. That's a waste of momentum...
Ankles would hurt like hell after a run - It is so common that after a run (Miss Ave T would confirm this) my ankles would be completely shot to hell for weeks. Which would in turn effect my training. Which would definitely have a long term effect on my ankles.
You take more effort during the course than other runners - Probably because of the reason above or probably because it is heavier for you to take each step, this would mean you would take a lot more effort during your runs which gets tired even faster than during your training.
So, I have changed the way I run to what they call "Forefeet Running" that focuses your landing ("strike") to hit your toes first before your entire feet gets into contact to the surface.
[Comparing my steps from heel striking to forefeet in a same run]
What I have found that by going to forefeet running, my timing improves a lot and I realized that I don't get tired as much as before. What this does is that it reduces the impact from your ankles, which supports and balances the entire body, to your toes and forces your body to "run with the momentum" rather than stopping it. This is turn would force your runs to go through a more natural position while running and would enable you to go a bit faster with much less effort.
I would implore for runner to try this because it sucks if your timing is slowed because of your own habits and it is even more frustrating to know that it just needs a slight change of running habits to make a HUGE difference in your time and stamina.
I have to admit that it did took me quite a while to adjust to this method of running due to old habits. But I found that there are a few things I could practice to get the mindset to shift from heel striking to forefeet running.
1. Lean forward a bit while running - When going for your run, lean forward a little bit. This would force your feet to land on your toes regardless whether you like it or not. A lot of times that people heel strike is because they get tired or lazy so they tend to slouch back while running, creating a situation where you have no choice but to heel strike.
[Fay going nuts on the happy mill! Check her out at WithLoveFay]
2. Go faster - Tell yourself to go a little faster than your usual pace would help you not slouch when running. As you can see from Fay's running form, pushing at a much faster rate would help you maintain your form while running.
3. Tighten your Abs and Look up - Without affecting your breathing rhythm, keep your abs or core tight and look forward while running. I realize during my runs a lot of people tend to look down while running especially while going uphill. Avoid doing this as it not only balls up your body while running but it would actually block your airway from naturally breathing properly while running.
4. Keep your steps in check while running - This is the most difficult part to do but would result the best to change your form. Make sure that your feet are not too far forward from your body while running. Everytime you do so, you are going into the heel strike mode again so tell yourself to stop it.
While there are other factors that can contribute to a runner's training, I believe from my own experience that this is the most basic change that you can do to improve your timing and avoiding injuries while running your course. Do give it a try and tell me what you think!