Bad running shoes for forefoot running prevent a forefoot strike and instead, encourage a heel strike landing. These shoes have a thick, cushioned elevated heel which increases stride length, encourages over-striding, and heel striking.
Since a thick heeled running shoe facilitates heel striking, to propel the body forward, the body must roll over the heel and on to the toes, which causes abnormal plantar distribution and fatigue fractures in the forefoot.
Below, shows how cushioned, raised heel footwear facilitates a heel strike where the foot is held on an angle thereby shifting the center of mass back during running and causes a runner to over-stride.
Bad running shoes also have motion control elements that restrict rearfoot movement, however it has been suggested that rearfoot movement is a natural mechanism of the body to attenuate impact forces.
Bad Running Shoes Produce More Impact than they Absorb
A cushioned heeled running shoe impairs balance, foot-placement awareness, and facilitates heel striking.
Why is heel striking bad?
To avoid heel striking, wear a minimalist shoe that is flat, without the cushioned heel.
A heelless minimalist shoe is imperative for forefoot strike optimization. Runners who wear minimalist running shoes or run barefoot, strike the ground on the forefoot thereby reducing the heel strike transient because the heel is the last part of the foot to touch to the ground.
Most elite distance runners, especially Ethiopian distance runners who hold numerous world records do not run on their heels, but rather the natural way, on the balls of the foot. There’s a reason why these runners aren’t heel strikers!
The Take Home Message
Bad running shoes are unfortunately considered good running shoes because of the added protection, particularly under the heel. However, the heel cushioning has no clinical relevance in the realm of injury prevention, producing high impact peaks and instantaneous vertical loading rates.
Heel cushioning is virtually a defective component of modern shoe technology that has profound implications for influencing injury.
What’s the purpose of heel cushioning if it does nothing to reduce the impact variables that cause chronic running injuries such as stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and even osteoarthritis. In the words of Christopher McDougall: the only thing running shoes do is make money.
More on Why You Should Avoid Heel Striking:
- Heel Strikers More Prone to Shin Splints than Forefoot Strikers
- Heel Strike Running Deforms Heel Pad Causing Heel Pain and Lower Leg Injury
- Heel Striking Causes Lower Back Pain
- Impact from Heel Striking Causes Soft Tissue Vibration and Injury
Kersting, G. The roll of footwear-independent variations in rearfoot movement on impact attenuation in heel-toe running. Res Sports Med, 2006; 14:117-34.
Sinclair et al. Investigation into the kinetics and kinematics during running in the heelless shoe. Footwear Sci, 2014; 6(3): 139-45.
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.