How to Prevent Arch Pain While Running

There’s nothing worse than arch pain while running. Scientists long believed that cushioned running shoes with good arch support could improve arch pain. This is now false as arch support is linked to reduced foot strength.

Arch Pain While Running

Arch height was another factor thought to contribute to arch pain in that low arched runners were at greater risk of developing painful arches.

Luckily, a growing body of evidence suggests that adopting the forefoot running technique reduces arch loading[1], aiding in less arch pain while running, regardless of arch height! What is more, wearing barefoot inspired running shoes aids in strengthening the arch.

(Click here to see examples of barefoot inspired running shoes).

Arch Pain While Running

Running with a forefoot strike lessens the work of the arch better than heel strike running.

Bottom of arch foot pain
The typical distribution pattern of the center of pressure over  the foot in a heel strike landing.

In heel strike running before the propulsive phase, the mass of the body transfers over the foot from heel to toe which may overload the arch, resulting in arch pain.

In addition, low arch height may be more problematic for heel strike runners as well in that past studies have found that heel strike runners with low arches had a lateral distribution pattern of the center of pressure over the foot compared to heel strike runners with high arches who had a more medial distribution pattern [2].

  • A lateral distribution pattern of the center of pressure may increase pronation, resulting in, not only arch pain, but knee pain as well [2].

Forefoot Running: Good Arch Pain Treatment

The distribution pattern of the center of pressure over the foot in forefoot running is different from that of a heel strike landing because the foot kinematics during a forefoot strike landing is significantly different.  What is more, arch height variation may play a lesser role in force distribution of the foot in forefoot running [1], suggesting that forefoot runners with high or low arches are less likely to struggle with arch pain.

For example, Lees et al. [1] found that arch height did not play a major role regarding the functional capacity of the foot in a forefoot strike, suggesting that arch height may have nothing to do with absorbing shock to the foot.

However, a forefoot strike landing (shown below) may lessen the kinematic demands of the arch since heel-toe rollover is eliminated.

Arch Pain Running

Another reason forefoot running reduces arch pain is that the spatiotemporal comparison of contact time and distance between the center of mass and the heel is lower than in heel strike running [4], suggesting that a forefoot strike requires less weight transfer and loading over the arch.

The Take Home Message

Forefoot running may prevent arch pain because it lowers the demands of the arch compared to heel strike running and may be notable for implications of the prevention of other lower leg injuries.


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More From Run Forefoot:

What to Focus on When Running

Barefoot Running

Best Shoes for Forefoot Running

Knee Injury

Heel Strike vs Forefoot Strike

How to Improve Cadence


References:

[1]. Lees, A., Lake, M and Klenerman, L. (2005). Shock absorption during forefoot running and its relationship to the longitudinal arch height. Foot Ankle Int, 26(12):1081-8.

[2]. De Cock et al. (2008). The trajectory of the center of pressure during barefoot running as a potential measure for foot  function. Gait Posture, 27(4):669-75.

[3]. Hunter, L. (2003). A new approach to modelling vertical stiffness in heel-toe runners. J Sports Sci Med, 2(4):169-43.

[4]. Thijs et al. (2007). A prospective study on gait-related intrinsic factors for patellofemoral pain. Clin J Sport Med, 17(6):437-45.

Bretta Riches

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!

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