I will go down as a staunch believer in the benefits of less/no shoe and mid-foot striking, that is for certain. But I am going to perhaps go against the grain a bit here and say that, while yes, it’s more natural for us to run this way, it doesn’t mean it’s easy, especially if you have been a heel striker for a long time.
We all want to think that, by changing our shoes, or doing 100 ups, or taking a class in chi running, we’ll suddenly be done with bad form. All those things help, of course. But our bodies can get pretty conditioned to bad habits and undoing them takes time.
It might even come with some pain. To change your form, you’re going to use your muscles differently and that can translate into some soreness. Your calf muscles are going to be tight, as are your Achilles. Even your feet are going to feel some hurt, because you are going to awaken muscles that haven’t had to work in quite some time in the big clunky heels of traditional shoes. The upside, I have found, is that once that form change is made, you won’t have tightness is many of the old places. My hamstrings used to be perpetually tight, and now that’s gone. I also find I recover faster from long runs than I used to–at age 46, that’s saying something!
So–what’s the best way to go about it? Slowly, slowly, slowly. Don’t run out, buy a pair of low heel-to-toe drop shoes and leave your old shoes behind for good. You need to ease your way into it. I also swear by pure bare foot running to really make your form change. Your bare feet aren’t going to let you heel strike. But again, tiny, and I mean tiny, bits of bare footing to begin with.
Perhaps the best way to completely make a change is to just run that tiny bit barefoot, and nothing more–pretty much starting from scratch with your mileage. I know very few who are willing to go that way (myself included), but those who have will tell you it pays off.
There are plenty of good resources with far more knowledge than what I can offer that you can utilize–the Natural Running Center is a great place to start. I certainly am not here to discourage anyone from trying to make the change to better form; in fact I encourage it. I just think it’s worthwhile to be honest and upfront about the process. Sometimes it ain’t pretty and if you can wrap your brain around that ahead of time, you might be better off.
Have you made a change in form? How easy/hard was it for you?