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Need More Speed? Try the Heel Flick

Want to run faster in your upcoming spring races? Try this simple trick: flick your heels as you’re striding.

Consciously flicking your heels as you run will slightly lengthen your stride without making you overstride. Be sure not to reach out with your lead foot. This will result in overstriding and send excess shock forces traveling up your leg. You still want to let your feet land right below or slightly behind the center of your body. At the end of each stride, letting your heels naturally flick back towards your buttocks will help in creating a smooth elliptical foot motion. This motion, will, in turn, help to increase your cadence at the same time that your stride is lengthening. This will result in faster-paced running.

One particularly successful practitioner of the heel flick is double-Olympic gold medalist and multiple World Championship medalist Mo Farah. Just after his foot leaves the ground, Farah quickly kicks his heels upward towards his bottom instead of having his legs trail behind him. This increases his cadence, which makes him speedier.

Mo Farah flicking his heels to victory

The importance of heel flick is something that sprinters have known for a long time. It is crucial in reducing the distance that the swing leg has to travel before it is ready for the next stride. Sprinters often work on this skill by employing “butt kicking” drills that exaggerate the heel flick. You can also benefit from doing strides in which you exaggerate the heel flick by trying to kick your own butt with your trailing foot. 

You can also work on the heel flick by concentrating on flicking your heel while on a regular run. If you are wearing a GPS watch, you might notice an almost immediate pace surge. Doing this throughout your run can be tiring, however, and for longer distances, the heel flick might feel inefficient. The key is finding how much heel flick works for you and using it to your advantage when the moment is right.

Have you tried increasing your speed through the heel flick? If so, how did you practice this skill? Please tell us about it in the comments.

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