Achilles Tendon Function in Forefoot Running

The Achilles tendon function in forefoot running is to store energy and absorb impact. This is the problem plaguing many heel strike runners –high impact landings, which suggests that the Achilles tendon isn’t working as it should to help keep impact low.

Achilles Tendon in Forefoot Running
Foot strike pattern during running significantly affects Achilles tendon function.

Achilles Tendon – Heel Strike vs Forefoot Strike

More Impact in Heel Strike Running

The average vertical loading rate and instantaneous vertical loading rate kick-starts many overuse injuries in heel strike runners, and according to Napier et al., these impact variables are the main risk factor for most running-related injuries.

Why Forefoot Running is Better for Your Achilles

Forefoot running however, reduces, or eliminates these load variables whereby the reduction in loading is inferred by the Achilles tendon’s capacity to absorb impact at touchdown.

  • It may be possible that the Achilles tendon is better able to absorb the impact load from initial contact over a greater period of time in forefoot running than in heel strike running (Napier et al. 2014).

These findings may also hint at a reason why some forefoot running learners experience Achilles tendon pain –because their Achilles tendon is functioning in a new way. At the same time, Achilles tendon pain will eventually vanish as soon as the body has accepted the forefoot running technique.

Overall, Napier et al. found that changing from a heel strike to a forefoot strike running style had the greatest effect on lower extremity kinematics and mechanics for the better, suggesting that adopting a forefoot strike landing is the best way to lower your risk of sustaining nagging or debilitating injuries.

More from Run Forefoot:

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The Cause of ITBS – Understand how running shoes that are stiff and inflexible increases a runner’s risk of ITBS.

Expensive Shoes Doesn’t Mean More Protection – A study found that cheaper running shoes were linked to less injury rates than pricier ones.

Protecting Your Joints – Discover how the best joint protection technique for running is to avoid heel strike.

Born to Run…Forefoot? Here I talk about why humans are anatomically suited for forefoot running, and not heel strike running.

Are Heel Strikers Slower? Here I uncover the 2 main reasons that may slow a heel striker down.

The Neuroscience of Running….Barefoot – An overview of how barefoot running boosts motor coordination patterns in the brain, helping you run with better mechanics.

Shoes for Forefoot Strikers – Read about the barefoot-inspired running shoes that help avoid heel strike.


Napier et al. Gait modifications to change lower extremity gait biomechanics in runners: a systematic review. Brit J Sports Med, 2014; doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094393.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

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.
Bretta Riches

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P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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