One of the runner’s most pressing concerns should be how the impact from the ground is absorbed.
Every time you run, you’re subjecting your body to repeated, high-energy impact toward the ground. Your feet bear the impact of your weight plus the force of your momentum, which can more than double the force that your feet experience when you’re running at top speed.
This means that running inherently puts a strain on your feet.
The delicate bones, ligaments, tendons, and joints that plant our bodies to the ground will experience that impact and can wear out over time. With improper running form and impact absorption, you can become injured as your feet get damaged.
So how can you prevent this from happening? This article will look at impact absorption and how runners can mitigate its effects on their feet.
Why is Impact Absorption Important for Runners?
Impact absorption is critical to maintaining long-term health on your running feet. After all, you’re subjecting your feet to challenging forces that can strain their structure when you run, ultimately leading to injuries.
Here, we can see the role that impact absorption plays in our running.
When we’re taking the proper measures to absorb the impact of our footfalls, the force that would have gone directly to the delicate parts of our feet is efficiently dispersed.
This results in fewer chances of injuries because it doesn’t put undue pressure on your feet. Take note that the force wouldn’t go anywhere, and your feet will still feel the impact of every run – but efficient absorption makes it so that the result your feet experience is just enough to grow stronger over time.
But there’s another benefit that a proper impact absorption strategy facilitates: improved running performance.
When running impact is distributed correctly, your muscles don’t have to work as hard to generate energy. When it isn’t properly absorbed, however, the power of each step goes to where it’s not supposed to go instead of being conserved for your next steps.
There are two ways to improve your impact absorption while running: by optimizing your running form and choosing the right running shoes.
Running Form and Impact Absorption
Your biomechanics, or running form, is perhaps the most significant contributor to impact absorption when you run.
When a runner suffers from improper impact absorption, it’s usually because they don’t have the right running form. When you don’t have the ideal form, your running will still be inefficient and dangerous no matter what shoes you wear.
This is because your running form dictates how your feet will hit the ground.
Throughout every phase of your run, from the moment your feet touch the ground to when it generates thrust to take off again, the proper form needs to be maintained.
Most of the time, ideal running form can be attained by adjusting three critical areas of your legs, which are the following.
- Hip joint. When you land, your hip shouldn’t be aligned with your trunk and knee. Instead, it has to be opened up to about 25 – 35 degrees of extension.
- Knee joints. Your knee should also be slightly bent when it touches the ground and slightly in front of your hips, with about 40 – 41 degrees of extension.
- Ankle joints. The forefoot or midfoot area of your ankle should be what is touching the ground – not your heels. This should also open up to more or less 20 degrees of extension.
It can be challenging to perfect these extension ranges, especially if you’re doing it alone. However, a professional gait analysis can help you figure out your running habits and then design a regimen to take you to your goals.
Running Shoes and Impact Absorption
While your biomechanics might be the most critical aspect of proper impact absorption, that’s not to mention that it’s the only factor in mitigating the dangers of running.
A proper running form will go a long way to reducing your feet’s impact, but it’s not everything. Running shoes are specifically made to address the rigors associated with running, and it boosts impact absorption to levels you can’t achieve on your own.
Having the right running shoes lets runners function to their full potential. Here’s a list of exactly how running shoes help.
Many runners suffer from pains and injuries despite having the correct running form, primarily because of their foot shape.
When a runner has a flat foot, the feet don’t distribute the impact as efficiently when they run (also called overpronation), resulting in pain and injuries. Having the correct, supportive running shoes prevents injuries from happening, even if you run frequently.
Foor shape is just one of the things that the right running shoes address.
Often, beginner runners haven’t built up the strong muscles and ligaments required for running. Going directly into this high-impact sport with weak feet muscles can result in pain and injury, discouraging beginners from pursuing the sport.
Proper footwear mitigates this. A good running shoe will absorb much of the impact while the runner is still learning the proper running form and developing stronger feet muscles. This makes it easier for complete beginners to pursue the sport.
Keeps you comfortable
Individuals who run over long distances and on rough terrain can feel pain from the highly repetitive impact of their feet on the ground.
The right running shoes prevent this from happening. Different running shoes can address different running needs, such as terrain. For example, you can get running shoes with pronounced grips for trail running or thickly cushioned shoes for long distances.
Improves running performance
Running shoes are developed with technology that enhances how people run – depending on their running goals and even physical features.
If you’re flat-flooted, for instance, you should try running shoes made specifically to improve support and stability.
Variations in the design, midsole quality, and other technologies can contribute to a runner’s performance.
There are shoes specifically patented to increase a runner’s top speed during races, lightweight shoes that conserve the energy of distance runners, and even shoes designed to absorb a basketball game’s frequent starts and stops.
Whatever type of running you do, there are shoes that can help you achieve even greater heights.
Minimizing Impact Absorption While Running
Running is an incredibly strenuous, high-impact sport. When you run, much of your weight and force is concentrated on your feet, and the harder or more frequent you run, the more of this strain your feet experience.
Thus, impact absorption is a critical factor in running. Proper impact absorption mitigates the risks of injury and even improves performance.
As long as you have the proper form and wear the right running shoes, you can make sure that your runs are always safe and fulfilling.
Marko is a recreational runner (and a techie) that has completed a full-distance trail marathon from Australia. He is the lead writer at JogTunes and spends his off-time time testing different running shoes and GPS watches.