Forefoot running has gained almost universal acclaim for being a safer way to run as compared to heel strike running. More reasons to run forefoot comes from the observation that many of the best short, middle and long distance runners in the world utilize a forefoot strike landing pattern. In that spirit, if you are a heel strike runner grappling with ongoing injuries, or if you are looking to improve your performance without injury setbacks, you may want to consider forefoot running and this is how you go about learning it:
Learning the forefoot running technique is much easier than you think! Forefoot running is hardwired in us –that is, we all have the ability to run forefoot! The major thing I enjoy the most about forefoot running is that it feels more comfortable than heel strike running. However, reprogramming ourselves to run with a forefoot strike, especially if you have been a heel strike runner for an exceptionally long time, takes time and you also need to acknowledge that YOU, not cushioned running shoes, are the best and ONLY defense against injury. This means that no matter how much cushioning is in your shoe, if you land the WRONG way, you will get injured and create more impact than the shoe cushioning can handle. This is why learning the proper forefoot strike landing pattern is key in injury prevention.
Learn the Forefoot Running Technique
STEP 1. Barefoot Before Shoes
There’s an underlying assumption that running without shoes is bad and will cost you an injury, but this default assumption is beginning to breakdown as new evidence supports the idea that barefoot running is a more nurturing environment for not only improved foot and ankle strength, but if used properly, can be tremendously effective at fine-tuning your biomechanics.
Alberto Salazar believes that a little barefoot running, 2-3 times a week at 1-2 miles, is essential to improve foot strength and maintain adequate form. Not only that, Perkins et al. published a systematic review comparing the risks and benefits of barefoot and minimalist shod running and concluded that most minimalist shoes fail to fully replicate barefoot running. The results pointed to the fact that running economy and mechanics consistently differ between barefoot and minimalist shod running.
Need more convincing about the benefits of barefoot running? Click here to learn what going barefoot can do for you
STEP 2. Proper Forefoot Footwear
Cushioned footwear is the leading cause of foot weakness and bad biomechanics. Therefore, going barefoot is the best way to repair damaged feet and helps you maintain good forefoot running mechanic in shoes. To kick-start your forefoot running journey, you need to find the proper footwear, or go barefoot which is even better! But for those who prefer to wear shoes, you MUST wear barefoot running shoes –running shoes that closely approximate being barefoot. Get started by reviewing the following:
Beware of running shoes advertised as a “minimalist shoe”. These shoes include:
STEP 3. Things to Avoid When Running Forefoot
The best way to change your heel strike into a forefoot strike is to learn what you must NOT do when learning forefoot runnig:
- Don’t Lift Forefoot Up Before It Strikes the Ground
- Don’t Run Too Upright
- Don’t Over-Extend Your Knees
- Don’t Learn on Grass
- Don’t Run Slow
Click here to learn the other DONTs of forefoot running.
STEP 4. Implementing the Proper Forefoot Mechanics
- Where Should You Look When You Run?
- Head Position
- The Forefoot Strike: Up Close and Personal / Avoid Toe Strike / Running Shoe Wear Pattern of a Forefoot Strike
- Leg Swing
- Arm Carriage & Swing / Why a Higher Arm Carriage May Be Better
- Push Less, Pull More as per Pose Running
- Never Begin Running Slow. Faster is Better
If you want more advice on proper forefoot running technique, you can send me a video/photos of your gait for me to analyze.
STEP 5. No Stretching!
- Stretching Impairs Pace Strategy in Highly Trained Middle Distance Runners
- Pre-Run Stretching Increases Stress Susceptibility in Muscle Fibers
- Why Warming Up is Better
- Stretching Spoils Leg Spring in Runners
- Studies Suggests Runners Don’t Need to be that Flexible
Drills/Strengthening Exercises for Forefoot Running
- Feet/Ankle Strengthening Exercises
- Balance Ankle Exercises to Improve Ankle Strength
- Butt-Kicking Drills
- Wobble Board
Struggling with Injury?
- Wear Pure Minimalist Shoes when Running with an Achilles Injury
- Nerve Problems in the Foot Solved
- Learn Forward if Your Knees Hurt
I also did a video where I elaborate more on the positive aspects of forefoot running and how it relates to good running performance and enhanced injury prevention measures:
More Running Tips For You:
Heel Strike – Heel strike running is not a fun way to run. Why? Because it causes injury, leaving you on the sidelines during races.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome – Many runners suffer this dreaded injury, but many runners don’t know why. This article covers the main cause of knee injury in runners.
Achilles Heel – Found out why heel strike running is such a daunting task for the Achilles tendon, resulting in injury to the tendon.
Eccentric Exercises – We often hear about eccentric exercises, but you can achieve them just by running barefoot; find out how.
Forefoot Shoe Review – Read my review on the FeelMax Osma 2, an under-appreciated forefoot running shoes that is a great tool to help you mechanically run your best.
Perkins et al. The risks and benefits of running barefoot or in minimalist shoes: a systematic review. Sports Health, 2014; 6(6):475.480.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.