Ankle Pain From Forefoot Running

Ankle pain from forefoot running may be more common in novice forefoot runners who have transitioned from heel strike running. Moreover, forefoot runners who transition to barefoot, or minimalist running may also encounter ankle pain.

The pain often resides on the lateral side (outer side) of the ankle. But, no need to worry as the adaptivity of the ankle to a new running style is still in its infancy which is likely the cause of the pain.

The Ankle is Used Differently in Forefoot Running

Forefoot running provides a whole new mode of mechanics on the ankle compared to heel strike running.

  • when forefoot running in a barefoot shoe, or while barefoot, the ankle range of motion is much greater compared to shod-heel striking
Ankle pain from forefoot running
Ankle pain from forefoot running is part of the strengthening process in adapting to a new running condition.

Peak plantar-flexor moment and eccentric ankle power were also found to be higher in barefoot and minimalist shod runners. Other reports have found that a forefoot strike may increase the ground reaction force moment arm about the ankle joint.

Such findings are not indicative of anything bad related to forefoot and barefoot running; these findings are essentially descriptors of forefoot running mechanics, that’s all.

In other words, the demands on the ankle joint differ between forefoot striking in barefoot running shoes and heel striking in thick, heeled running shoes.

Sore ankles are just a mere sign of adaptation of the ankle to a new running condition and does not require immediate attention. It’s all part of the transition process.

Its okay if forefoot running in a barefoot shoe, or while barefoot is maintained despite ankle pain as the related pain is useful for providing feedback to be less forceful and more relaxed when running.

The last thing you want to do however, is run in a shoe with more cushioning until ankle pain subsides as greater cushioning limits proprioception and prevents the ankle from doing its job at providing stability during running.

The Take Home Message

In the case of ankle pain from forefoot running, the pain is “just weakness leaving the body” and is very temporary.

The key is to remain anchored to barefoot, or minimalist shod running when minor bouts of pain is endured and accept that pain is a sign of progress.

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References:

Paquette et al. Acute effects of barefoot, minimalist shoes, and running shoes on lower limb mechanics in rear and forefoot strike runners. Footwear Science (2013); 5(1):9-18.

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

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!

1 Comment

  1. What about ankle pain in the inside? No matter how many balancing exercises I do, or how long I spend easing into greater distances, after 2.5 miles in minimalist shoes the inside (PTT) of my ankle gets sore. I spent 4 months building up to 3 miles,- d went very gradually. Ready to abandon minimalist shoes sadly for this reason.

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