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Running with a Relaxed Midfoot Strike

As in a previous post (ChiRunning® … Land, Peel and Lift), the ChiRunning motion of the heel/foot creates a wheel or circle as we move forward.

Another key to this running motion is a Relaxed Midfoot Strike.  Running with a relaxed midfoot (full-foot) strike allows a subtle forward lean (fall) from the ankles with no resistance.  It also removes a significant amount of stress from the lower legs and feet.  The statistics indicate that 65-80% of all runners get injured every year in some way.  And most of those injuries are at the knee and below.  Could it be that we are asking a relatively small part of our body to do a very big job?  If we can relax the lower legs and feet, then we can simply use their structure for instantaneous support … a relatively small job for a very strong part of our body – our skeleton.

My favorite way to body sense relaxed lower legs and feet is the Sand-Pit Exercise.  The Sand-Pit Exercise is described on page 89 (2009 ChiRunning Book) or page 171 (2004 CR Book).  When I first started ChiRunning, my brain was programmed to fire my calf and push off whenever my foot landed.  I spent a lot of time running and walking on sand, cinder, gravel and wood chips to help me focus on disengaging my lower legs and feet.  Any soft surface can enhance a focus on relaxed lower legs and feet, a one-legged posture stance, landing midfoot and no additional pressure (weight) in the balls of the feet as they are peeled off the ground.

[Another key exercise is the Ankle Rolls Body Loosener.  This is described on page 196 (2009 ChiRunning Book) or page 99 (2004 CR Book).  The key is to use the knee/upper leg to loosen the ankle.  Focus on mentally drawing a circle with the knee on the ground.  When?  Pre-run, during a run pause, anytime …]

A next level is to practice running on a slippery surface; such as mud, snow and even ice.  A slippery surface will provide additional feedback on how you are interacting with the ground.  The key to running on a slippery surface is to consider that the surface is only slippery in the horizontal directions.  If you can run without horizontal forces in your feet, you will minimize slipping.  I like to focus on the solid ground under the slippery surface; and evenly trap the slippery material between your foot and the solid ground.  This focus or action is purely in the vertical direction.  See the diagram below highlighting this direction.

Even though we are focusing on landing vertically, we still want to be light on our feet.  Much of the focus is still on peeling/lifting the feet up; and when landing it is just for even instantaneous support.  As in the Sand-Pit Exercise, it is very helpful to run across a section of slippery surface and then continue with the same mental focus and feeling as you transition onto a solid surface.

Of course we need to be careful on any surface, but a little adversity can stretch your focus and develop a deeper sense of relaxation in your running or ChiRunning practice.


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David Stretanski is a holistic health, fitness and wellness coach and Certified ChiRunning®/ChiWalking® Instructor. For more information on David, please see his About Me, Contact page or his website at

ChiRunning® and ChiWalking® are registered trademarks of ChiLiving, Inc.


Posted on Saturday, Dec. 19th 2009 12:15 PM | by echifitness | in All, Barefoot/Minimalist, ChiRunning, Fitness | 6 Comments »

6 Comments on “Running with a Relaxed Midfoot Strike”

  1. MJM Says:

    I’ve been having soreness in my tibial tendon. I came back to your website for a refresher. I think I’ve been overusing my lower legs lately. Thanks for the great reminders!

  2. David Stretanski Says:

    Hi M,
    Thanks for your comment and feedback on my blog.

    It is easy to fall back into using/tensing the lower legs; particularly in your shoe choice. Some tips:
    – Ankle Rolls all day long to sense relaxation and maintaining it. Pause during a run if you need to and do a few.
    – Find soft surfaces that will provide feedback if there is effort/tension; Are you pushing with the forefoot or peeling your feet?
    – Consider a button on your heel and you can only pick up (peel) your foot *after* the heel touches softly but loads fully so the pressure is even front to back/inside to outside.


  3. MJM Says:

    Thanks for the feedback David. I have been trying to “peel” my feet, which seems to be helping. Ankle rolls are also a great idea. I was able to run on a soft surface this weekend, which provided great feedback. I think part of the problem may be that I have to do most of my weekday runs on a treadmill (for childcare reasons). I think this may be causing stress in my ankle? Again, thank you for the wonderful resource that is your website.

  4. David Stretanski Says:

    Hi M,
    The first thing to remember is that a treadmill is not the same as running on the ground. Mentally there is an element of apprehension to staying “on” a device that is moving without your “immediate” control. You know that one false step and …

    Mentally your frame of reference is also different. The surroundings are not moving when on the treadmill … and sport is what, 90+ percent “mental”. So there will likely be many technique, balance and effort adjustments on the treadmill vs. off.

    In general the treadmill scenario creates more effort in the lower legs. Overall suggestions:
    – 1-2 degrees on the incline.
    – Less distance.
    – Less expectation of speed.
    – More focus on position and fullfoot relaxation. My mindset on a treadmill is to see if I can stay relaxed on it, period.

    The good thing is that if you can stay relaxed on a treadmill, you will really be relaxed once you get onto the ground.


  5. MJM Says:

    Thanks for the additional feedback. I have read elsewhere the suggestion to add incline on a treadmill. I will try. Just curious, do you know why/how this is supposed to help? Thanks!

  6. David Stretanski Says:

    I believe for two reasons:
    1. A slight incline will make you less inclined to reach forward with the legs
    2. A slight incline will help you keep you body position slightly forward into the “hill” since you can feel the incline in your ankles.

    Hope this helps.

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