To thy own stride be true

I’m slowly progressing in my running, which is what you want when you’re starting out and trying to avoid a recurrence of shin splints.

At the moment, I’m up to two miles and about 25 minutes per run, up from my start of about 15 minutes for one mile. (We’ll just forget my aborted attempts at 12 minute miles that left me gasping for breath.) I’ve slowly increased speed or time when running, alternating each week on what I’ll increase.

And I’ve been trying to educate myself on other ways to keep shin splints from occurring.

Stretching and foam roller exercises are one. I’ve been doing several of those.

Stride is another. Although I don’t think there is anything wrong with my stride, despite what the current views might be.

I’m a heel-striker when at full stride. I guess heel-strikers are considered the red-headed stepchildren of the running family, getting beat up a lot by the media and others.

The in vogue thing is to either land on your midstep or the balls of your feet. Yeah, OK. That works well at low speeds on the treadmill. I land midstep, but the faster I run, the longer my stride becomes and I start to land on my heels.

But heel strikes are bad! They like to tell you that when you strike with your heel you stop.


If you actually stopped, you wouldn’t go anywhere, would you? If you actually stopped, there’d be some severe jarring going through your legs and hips.

The thing is, heel strikers don’t land with the forward leg completely straight out with the knee locked. If you did, sure, then you’d stop. You’d not make any forward movement. Or worse, you’d be like a pole vaulter and launch your body over the forward leg. It doesn’t happen.

That’s because heel strikers land with their leg is extended, but the knee is bent. As their heel hits the ground, the knee acts as a hinge, and their foot rolls forward while their knee continues to bend allowing their body to glide along over the point of impact.

The heel strike is a beautiful thing.

The second thing I’ve been reading is cadence, or pace, or whatever they want to call it. Supposedly, some expert somewhere decided that 180 steps per minute (spm) is the ideal and anyone doing less than that is just a slacker.

I can’t imagine how they came to that determination, but my biggest question is: Are you supposed to do 180 steps per minute ALL the time? I mean, no matter what your speed? So a slow jog, you’re still doing 180 steps per minute? You’d look pretty foolish.

And what about leg length? Does 180 steps apply to long striders also? They’d exhaust themselves trying to do that.

Or is it only a race pace?

They never say, they just throw the number out and say this is the ideal.

Because I’ve counted and at 4.5 mph, I do about 140 spm. At 5.5, I do about 155 spm. I haven’t counted at higher speeds, but when I get to 180 spm, does that mean I shouldn’t go any faster?

I don’t know. I do know that you should do what feels right for you. If you’re a heel striker or a forefoot runner and it’s working for you, why mess with it?

I don’t mean you should stop learning, because it’s always good to be knowledgeable. Maybe you’ll find something that does work to make you a better, more efficient runner.

Run. Learn. Apply. Feel free to discard what doesn’t work.

Have fun.



4 thoughts on “To thy own stride be true

  1. I’ve had some issues with shin splints myself, and I’ve noticed that running uphill helps, as well as taping my shins before a run. I use kinesiology tape. Not saying it will work for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it yet, maybe you should? Worth a shot 😊 good luck anyway!

      1. You don’t HAVE to shave your legs. Recommended of course. 🙂 But I know a lot of men who thinks it’s worth it. Just shave the area where you’re going to lose the tape. Or trim it. And leave the tape on for a few days of course.
        Incline is actually better for your knees. Running without incline or downhill makes you hit your knees harder because you knee is more extended when you hit the ground. When running on incline your form is naturally better, because you don’t extend your leg completely when you hit the ground, making a sort of “shock absorber” for your knees.
        I recommend taking a running technique course if you can find any in your area.

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