Why Runners Injure: The Wrong Running Form Via Heel Strike
Runners have been horribly misinformed: “Heel strike running is the proper way to run” –based on what? Let me tell you what the reality is.
At RunForefoot, by reviewing the scientific literature, I uncover the health and performance benefits of forefoot running as well as the health harming effects of heel strike running in hopes to change people’s attitudes towards running – running is not hard on the body, if you run forefoot, not rearfoot.
Because injury rate remains high in joggers who heel strike, suggests that heel strike running is not the correct running form humans evolved for.
The first part of the foot that makes initial ground-contact during running determines injury. Likewise, the consensus remains that the heel strike-transient generated at heel strike is the main cause of running injuries. Click here to learn more about the injuries caused by the heel strike-transient.
Cushioned Running Shoes Breeds Bad Running Form
Improper running technique and injury derives from high-tech running shoes with thickly cushioned heels, causing runners to strike the ground on the heel first and with more force compared to habitual barefoot runners who are mostly forefoot strikers. Below is a video that describes what I mean: Running shoes can be a good thing for learning forefoot running –namely if the shoes are barefoot running shoes because they don’t distract perceptual awareness (proprioception) of foot strike. Click here to see some examples of barefoot running shoes for forefoot running.
My Experience with Heel Strike and Forefoot Running
My name is Bretta Riches, founder of Run Forefoot. I research biomechanics, specifically foot strike mechanics of forefoot running, the correct running form. I am an avid minimalist, forefoot runner who was once a heel striker. I launched Run Forefoot to help others understand and learn forefoot running. Although my transition to forefoot running certainly did not happen over night, as a forefoot striker, my landings are softer, regardless of surface hardness, running feels easier, more natural, I flow.
Though I am far from elite status, having adopted a forefoot strike allows me to run consistently with great results, without discomfort and injury.
Learn Forefoot Running from Ethiopian Runners
Most Ethiopian distance runners display the correct running form which why I base most of my forefoot running content on Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele.
Because these Ethiopian runners ran barefoot for more than a decade during their earlier years before becoming elite runners. Barefoot running from day 1, shapes the reflexive nature of forefoot running and molds proper landing behavior. What do I mean by this?
Their forefoot running mechanics are pure, left un-touched by the conventional running shoe, until they score sponsorship’s later in life, but the critical components of safe, efficient running was already developed via barefoot running.
Their biomechanical parameters reflect that of how our ancestors ran, the natural way. Such biomechanical parameters of proper forefoot running observed in most Ethiopian distance runners includes:
- ankle plantarflexion at touchdown (not lifting the forefoot/toes up at touchdown)
- forward, or front position of the center of mass, or a forward lean as per Pose Running
- higher cadence
- lower ground contact time
- downward eye gaze
- arm carriage and arm swing that contributes to balance, not speed
With regards to foot strike, I have been on both sides of the fence. When I began running, I was a heel striker, always sore, battling injuries to the point where I had difficulty walking.
After intensive research on biomechanics, I found that the scientific literature painted a grim picture of heel striking running, implicating that this style of running is the underlying cause of most running-related injuries.
Statistically speaking, running injuries in habitually forefoot strike running populations were either very low, or rare, demonstrating that a forefoot strike provides better impact protection than a heel strike when running.
Lastly, I became inspired by Dibaba’s forefoot running style which motivated me to learn forefoot running.
My Goal at Run Forefoot
I want to share my past transition process with you and provide key information from the scientific literature that helped me along the way. And, I want aspiring forefoot runners to learn from my mistakes by avoiding the ‘too much, too soon’ pitfall.
Nevertheless, my goal is to advocate the importance of running with a forefoot strike and raise awareness on the potential health harming effects of heel strike running.
Finally, by showing that forefoot running is safe and easy to learn, I hope to inspire more people to run and banish the false perception that running is ‘dangerous’. Less pain, more gain with forefoot running.
So What About You?
What are your thoughts on this post? Were you impacted? Looking forward to hearing from you!
More From Run Forefoot:
- How Forefoot Running Improves Performance
- Forefoot Running Reduces Injuries
- Heel Striking is a Dangerous
- Study: Heel Strikers May Injure More than Forefoot Strikers
You Might Also Like:
Harrison, PC and Davis, IS. Gait retraining to reduce lower extremity loading in runners. Clin Biomech (2010); 26: 74-83.
BSc (HONS) Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, running geek, founder of Run Forefoot.com. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, running feels natural,easier, and I'm injury free.I launched Run Forefoot.com to advocate the potential benefits of forefoot running and raise awareness on the potential dangers of heel striking.