We know that forefoot running is the proper running form, but learning it should not be that difficult. In fact, the less energy you invest in fixing all aspects of your running technique at once while you run, the better, safer and more efficient you will be. This is because your performance fades when you hyper-focus on your mechanics while you are trying to perform your best.
When learning forefoot running or barefoot running, obsessing over every little detail of your running form will cause you to move less efficiently, making you more vulnerable to pre-mature fatigue and injury.
- When you are running, focusing simultaneously on multiple aspects of your mechanics creates a high-pressure situation, and when you are stressed and frustrated, this reflects in how you move when you run, resulting in muscle tremors, freezing up, and movement rigidity.
Avoid Obsessing Over the Proper Running Form
Gucciardi et al. found that athletes who hyper-focused on a detailed set of rules during performance were more likely to succumb to mental pressure and movement ‘hiccups’ than athletes who did not have any specific set of rules in mind.
So what is the happy monitoring medium when learning how to run forefoot? Gucciardi et al. recommends focusing, but not too much, on ONE word, or mantra, while training. This prevents you from being bombarded with confusing thoughts and worries and also uses less mental horsepower, helping save energy.
Concentrate on One Thing at a Time When Forefoot Running
If you focus on other aspects of your mechanics, you’ll instantly lose focus on how your foot interacts with the ground. For this reason, concentrating solely on your forefoot strike landing may be one of the most effective ways to immunize yourself against injury and will also make learning forefoot running a less tension-filled situation.
Moreover, focusing on a single word that sums up your global mechanics (i.e. ‘smooth’, ‘soft’, ‘flow’) is the best strategy to quiet the mind, preventing the brain from getting in its own way (Svoboda, 2009). So don’t train under pressure, clear your mind and think about foot strike ONLY.
When you have perfected your forefoot strike, then you can focus on other aspects of your mechanics that may need polishing. You can do this because as you practice your forefoot strike over and over, you gradually transfer the control of this skill from the cerebral cortex to the cerebellum, which regulates automated movements, making it possible to focus less on foot strike without the added risk of getting injured.
The take home message is that focusing only on foot strike flushes out frustration, preventing you from regressing into bad form. And of course to minimize the risk of significant injury, learn forefoot running by running barefoot and learn to listen to your body. Avoid wearing thick cushioned running shoes because they are a proprioceptive interference, making you mechanically inefficient, putting large amount of stress on the lower legs and simultaneously prohibiting the feet from gaining strength.
Interested in learning more about barefoot running? Click here to find out all the health benefits of barefoot running.
More From Run Forefoot:
Barefoot Running Improves Balance – Find out how running shoes destabilize mechanics and how barefoot running can easily help.
Running Shoes and Injuries – Find out why minimalist running shoes are associated with less injury compared to the traditional running shoe.
Femur Fracture – Find out how landing with a heel strike can essentially break the strongest bone in the body.
Running with Music – Did you know that runners run best when they hear a pattern? Find out why running with music is not such a bad thing after all.
Running Shoes – My reviews on the minimalist shoes I feel are best for forefoot running.
Svoboda, E. You Choked. Scientific American Mind, Feb/Mar 2009.pp38.
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.