Getting the Toes UP

I have hit a cross roads, I keep explaining to the athletes why they should get their toes up, I continue to reimind them to be dorsi flexed, but to no avail. All I hear that the are lifting them as high as they can.
So my question is, is there any drills or exercies to get these athletes to get there toes up. I am seeing many injuries in the shins because of braking - landing in front - instead of under the COM.

Also see this in one of my hurdlers.

Please help.

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Sounds like it may be a ROM issue. Maybe tight calves or weak anterior tibialis. Do some strength work for the anterior tibs and stretch the calves (maybe some extra soleus stretching as well). It’s a common problem, and I always explain to my athletes that in sprinting and jumping that it’s not the fall that kills ya, it’s the landing!! So they need to be able to land, brake and stabilize effectively.

How many of your athletes have this problem? Perhaps you have a group of rebels. Maybe try focusing on something else and the toes-up may come naturally. I don’t think the whole group has weak ankles.

What portion of the sprinting stride to you tell your athletes to get their toes up? What sort of angle are you looking for when you say “toes up”? I am more concered with telling my athletes to “step over” rather than tell them toes up. The only time they toe-out (as in a braking motion), is when they are over trained and start having shin problems. At that point I do not let them run anymore.

I don’t know if this would help, I just thought of this but perhaps its worth looking into. Maybe, make your athletes do some sprinting drills (not alot) on a slightly inclined road or grass field, as the foot will naturally cock (dorsi-flex) its toe. Just a visualization…

a drill that pounded this idea into my head was simple- have them face a wall and lean on it as if doing a push-up, raise one leg, and paw the ground. my coach would call it the claw, and stopping at the top really emphasized the toe-up part.
a variation that i also thought worked was to stand with one knee up simulating a stride, and the coach calls out numbers and the athlete switches legs that many times. very basic sprint form drills, but it really forced me to be aware of the toe-up in the context of the complete form.

One way to solve this problem is to introduce the athlete to race walking, which requires constant dorsiflexion just to do it correctly. Doing short distance drills will help your sprint hurdlers by working on leg speed and rhythm without the pounding they’d normally get from sprinting. One caveat if you try this, do it in GPP, because their shins are going to scream like banshees until they learn the technique properly. A good way to introduce this would be during the warmup/down they do. Stretching the soleus will need to be a priority too. Without a strong (=flexible) soleus, you cannot balance yourself properly and every stride will have wasted motion which will slow you down.

Response to all - it is not all the athletes, just newer athletes I coach - less than a year. It takes a awhile for athletes to learn new habits - just trying to speed it up. I used all things mentioned in my practices on a regular basis.
Thanks for the help people

What i don´t understand is that;
how can we run relaxed and dorsiflexed ( toes up ).
Ok, let me try to explaing this;
Toes up is not a natural thing, so, we have to force the toes up trying to hit the ground with the balls of feet, but, how can we run relaxed if we´re trying “something” that´s not natural ?
Should we let the feet free ( relaxed ) and then getting the dorsiflexed position just before landing ? i guess this is impossible while running at full speed.

Dorsiflexion is a normal process in running and walking, unless of course there is a problem with the individual’s musculature and/or nervous system that prevents them from doing this motion appropriately. Many people have subtle gait abnormalities that are never noticed as most coaches (and many physicians) are woefully inadequate in their knowledge and observation of proper gait (running or walking) technique, and as such, are incapable of providing the feedback necessry to assist athletes in making the corrections they need to move correctly and efficiently.

how bout walking on ur heels? dats da drill dat i use.

bump, any more tips/drill on making the aspect of dorsi-flexion more natural

Also when do you dorsi-flex? im having a hard time understanding when to do it

What I have made of it is…Dorsi-Flexion should occur after toe off (Plantar flexion) while the foot is passing and stepping over the knee. Plantar flexion will occur almost as a reflex right at ground contact.
If you plantar flex instead of dorsi flexion as the foot is passing the knee it is much slower and your foot will hit the ground ahead of your Center of Mass causing a breaking effect. Also if dorsi flexion doesnt occur prior to ground contact there is no prestretch of the calf therefore no stored elastic energy.

Experts. correct me if I am wrong.

Herb, is that you on that avatar ?

Sorry if i sound ignorant here but don’t sprinting spikes force you to run on the balls of your feet?

Not if you keep landing on your heels.

I read this thread and am still unsure about this.

As soon as you hit the ground, you are using hitting/clawing with the ball of your foot. This means the top of your foot is down. Now, as soon as your foot rises, do you want that foot to go into dorsi-flex (toes up) for its entire cycle, or, after you claw the ground, keep the toes down, but right before that foot strikes again put your toes up?

To make it shorter, should you be in dorsi-flex, toes up the entire race? or right before you foot hits the ground?

No, you dont dorsiflex the entire race. This is covered extensively in the forum review. Basically, you dorsiflex before you strike the ground, then once you’ve fully extended from your ankle you should be starting to bring your foot back to the dorsiflex position as it passes the support knee. Of course this all happens extremely quickly and you can work on it through drills and practice so that it becomes second nature at higher speeds.