Friday, 22 July 2005

Form Principle #3

Posted by speedygeoff on Friday, July 22, 2005 with 5 comments
“For Faster Feet, run on your toes.”

The best way you can instantly increase your running speed is to increase your foot turnover rate.
I watched the leg speed of many of the runners in the last Olympics and found that every one I examined took three steps every second for the duration of the race, a faster tempo than many of our local runners. And amazingly, that applied from 400 metres to marathon.

In order to run at that rate there are two things you should do. The first is to run on your toes. The second is to reduce the stride length if you are overstriding.

“Run on your toes”. So the saying goes. But this isn’t like a ballerina on her toes; the landing is actually on the mid-sole or the ball of the foot, as opposed to running on the heels.

“Shorten your stride length”. If you over-stride you still tend to land on your heels, and this has a deceleration effect. The only way of getting a fast leg turnover is to have a short enough stride so that you minimise the time spent in the landing phase of your running action and get your fore-feet down first. Having said that, a bigger stride length will obviously result in a faster time, if you can maintain the same tempo. But when you cannot, first get the tempo fast, then work on stride length independently (eg by doing light weight work in the gym, specifically leg presses and half squats).

So to go faster, concentrate on leg speed by eliminating heel-strike and by counting the number of strides per second until three becomes second nature.

It is important to have good mid-sole cushioning in your shoes, because that is where the impact will be. It is important to stretch the calves, because forefoot running strengthens and shortens the calf muscles.

In training, practice fast leg speed. You may have to ease this into your training to avoid injury. If you haven’t run much on your toes, your body will need to adjust to the different form.
Concentrate on your leg turn-over rate as you run, both during your speed work, and during your normal training pace.

Concentrating on this during a race really helps speed too. This is especially true as you start to tire – keeping the leg speed going despite shortening stride, shortening breath, and increasing pain, is the single best thing which helps you finish strong in a race.

Three steps per second. Maintain it through all your training and racing.

Form Principle #1 was “Relaxation” – see post of 17 June.
Form Principle #2 was “Run like a child” – see post of 29 June.

Form Principle #3 – For Faster Feet, run on your toes.


  1. certainly explained things clearly and logically...i'm fairly sure that i don't run on my heels except on the odd occasion (although if i do notice that i have, particularly when tired or just plain lazy!, i make a conscious effort to fix it)...the "3 steps per sec" concept sounds interesting, i must work out a way to check what i do (wihtout having any mishaps!)...have a good weekend...

  2. As an "allrounder" you would appreciate in swimming it is often an objective to slow down the stroke rate so that you are not flailing the arms or slipping in the water - which is opposite to the way I learned to race in running, which was to keep that three-steps-per-second tempo going at any cost. Coming to swimming late, I found it all quite strange to think that "faster" might not be better! But in running, "faster feet" is better, I believe.

  3. Yesterday I was reading from Lydiard's book " Running With Lydiard" (Lydiard/Gilmore, Meyer & Meyer Sport 2000), where he says, " not land on the forepart of the feet". I'm wondering, Geoff, is this different from the "mid-sole or the ball of the foot" that you write about here?

    I'm always confused about the sameness or otherwise of 'the forepart', the mid-sole' & the 'ball of the foot'. There seem to be so many different views on this topic...I'm happy to still be able to run & hopefully land on any part of my feet!!

    Always enjoy & learn from your running tips, Geoff, so keep them coming; tomorrow, I'll see if I can do 'three steps per second', without tripping over myself!

  4. There ARE different views - mine differs from Lydiard's here! I do really like Lydiard's structured approach to training and model my training sessions after his, to a great extent. Having said that, my views on style are definitely not similar to Lydiards. Nor are my views on diet!

  5. G'day thanks for your informative post!keep up the good work
    Run 2 Become