Achilles Tendon Ache When Forefoot Running

Many new forefoot runners complain of an Achilles tendon ache when they run. If you run too high up on your toes without letting your heel fully drop down to the ground, this is probably your problem because it increaases stress on the Achilles tendon, causing sharp pain.

Achilles Tendon Ache When Forefoot Running

In a forefoot running learner, ailments of the Achilles such as a tight Achilles tendon or Achilles tendonitis occurs if the learner lands high up on the toes, or does not allow the heel to drop down, or both!

The heel must drop down and contact the ground in forefoot running to minimize work at the Achilles tendon.
The heel must drop down and contact the ground in forefoot running to minimize work at the Achilles tendon.

Achilles Tendon Ache When Forefoot Running

proper forefoot strike in forefoot running involves the balls of the foot to contact the ground first, not the toes. After contact is made on the balls, the heel drops down to the ground. In forefoot running, the heel does contact the ground but do so last.

The problem with landing high up on the toes, is that it prevents the heel from dropping to the ground. The heel needs to drop to the ground to reduce jarring forces, giving you that nice, glide-like stride most Ethiopian elite runners have.

Watch any elite forefoot striker, they land ball-of-foot to heel! Not tippy-toed.

Since the heel does not drop to the ground in toe running, loading and demand on the calf musculature is very high which places enormous strain on the Achilles tendon.

If you are a forefoot runner suffering Achilles pain, avoid running on your toes making sure you land more forefoot-midfoot, and allow the heel to drop.

More on Learning Forefoot Running:


Nunns et al. (2013). Biomechanical Characteristics of Barefoot Footstrike Modalities.  in J Biomech, 46: 2603-2610; 2013.

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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