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Does the heel pitch of shoes affect your running gait?

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Does the heel pitch of shoes affect your running gait?

By Emily Donker, intraining Podiatrist, professional triathlete


Heel pitch, Stack Height, and Foot Strike are all words we hear in relation to running shoes.

Find out what they all mean and if they impact your running.


Heel Pitch

Heel pitch is the difference in stack height (cushioning) underneath the heel compared to the forefoot. The heel pitch of running shoes ranges between 0mm to 12mm, and can significantly affect gait. The biggest influence is usually realised with relation to strike position and pattern, which in turn also affects forefoot loading.



Heel, Midfoot and Forefoot striking are all totally acceptable ways to run. The growth of minimalist shoes promoted heel striking as negative, but a majority of runners are actually natural heel strikers. More problems tend to arise when your foot strike pattern varies from what is natural for you.


Footstrike and Overstriding

Foot strike position in relation to your body is very important for efficiency and injury management/prevention. Striking too far in front of your body (centre of mass) is known as overstriding, and is not ideal because it increases breaking forces and often increases injury risk. Overstriding can occur regardless of the strike pattern.


Shoe Pitch and Foot Strike

Shoes with a higher heel pitch encourage an earlier foot strike, and runners are also more likely to heel strike given the additional bulk under the heel. Unnatural heel striking, particularly if aggressive, can result in slapping or pounding with forefoot loading. Overstriding is also common with an unnatural heel strike.


Conversely, lower heel pitch encourages a midfoot or forefoot strike pattern due to the lesser bulk and cushioning protection. Not all runners can cope with this striking pattern. Stabbing the ground, or experiencing tightness through your calves, or pain in the foot or forefoot, then perhaps you need more heel pitch.


Most runners who experience calf and Achilles injuries are recommended to avoid shoes with insufficient heel pitch. Although counter-intuitively, sometimes a lower heel pitch can also benefit these runners by encouraging a more natural strike – it really depends on how you run naturally and what feels most comfortable for you.


Listening to your foot strike is the best way to determine if the heel pitch (and also the flexibility of the shoes) is working with your feet. Your running gait should feel natural and easy and should be as quiet as possible.


If you’re unsure about whether or not your shoes are suitable, or have any questions about footwear, or how the heel pitch of your shoes is affecting your running gait, book an appointment with one of the intraining Podiatrists.


Emily is a podiatrist and professional triathlete with podium finishes at the Kingscliffe Triathlon and Goondawindi Hell of the West. Emily has been working at intraining Running Centre since she was 18. She has an incredible wealth of knowledge about footwear and running related injuries.  Emily works in the intraining Running Injury Clinic helping runners and triathletes manage injuries and to write training programs.


The intraining podiatry, physiotherapy and Running store team are all runners.  They understand your running needs and love to talk all things running.  Come and see us to get your next pair of running shoes.  

“We’re the running store run by runners”

intraining Running Centre, 33 Park Rd Milton.  Ph:  3367 3088