Last Updated on February 22, 2012 by Jimson Lee
For a non-pigeon toed sprinter, the best example of the worse case scenario would have to go to Ato Bolden (see the head-on slow-motion video below with Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin from the 1995 World Championships archives)
One of the reasons why Ato runs that way is from his early days playing soccer (football). But that didn’t stop him from running world class times. You run the way you run. You are born with certain physical traits from your Mother and Father (and perhaps God, but I’ll leave out religious views here)
The logic for having straight feet or being pigeon toed is is easy, but there’s no real scientific proof for this phenomenon. I do have my theories, though.
First, you can gain (or lose) up to a centimeter (say half an inch) per every stride. Imagine if you can add half an inch for every stride multiplied by 46 strides in a 100 meters, and that’s 23 inches, or nearly 2 feet! (or 60 cm) That can be the difference between 1st and 4th.
Second, there are just a lot of pigeon toed sprinters or sprinters with straight feet out there! Success duplicates success. Ato is an exception to the rule.
Third, biomechanics have shown you land on the outside of your foot and then roll toward the inside in the recovery cycle. By being pigeon toed, you have less of this roll. Less roll could also mean a stiffer ankle, and last time I checked, sprinters all want stiff track spikes for greater force production during ground contact. Stiffer feet means energy is transferred and not absorbed. Memories of my high school physics with billiard balls comes to mind. However, pigeon-toed people are often bow-legged which may lead to other injuries and may explain the short “life-span” of elite sprinters.
And that is why we do endless drills. Focus on proper mechanics (such as watching out for dorsiflexion, for example) and keep the toes and feet straight. Check for limited range of motion as it could be a soft tissue injury, or an injury waiting to happen.
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