Running Barefoot with a Forefoot Strike Different than Forefoot Striking in Shoes

Running barefoot with a forefoot strike has different effects on hip, knee and ankle angles compared to running in shoes with a forefoot strike.

Even though forefoot running reduces  runners knee, ITBS and shin splints, forefoot running in the traditional running shoe will cause bouts of lower leg injury which are alleviated by running barefoot with a forefoot strike.

How barefoot and shod condition affect lower leg kinematics
The hip, knee, and ankle angles that were represented in the study.

A study by Shih et al. found that running barefoot with a forefoot strike significantly affected ankle and knee angles upon landing compared to running in shoes with a forefoot strike.

Running barefoot with a forefoot strike also had different effects on the stance phase regarding ankle, hip and knee range of motion compared to shod-forefoot running. And, running barefoot with a forefoot strike had significant effects on stance duration compared to shod-forefoot running.

Barefoot-forefoot running vs shod-forefoot running
Barefoot and shod conditions have different effects on leg kinematics in forefoot running.

More importantly, running barefoot with a forefoot strike resulted in a smaller landing point to the center of mass. This means that foot strike position was closer to the center of mass, making a reduction in braking entirely plausible.

Furthermore, running barefoot with a forefoot strike reduced the vertical displacement of the center of mass (less bounce) compared to shod-forefoot running. And finally, cadence was higher in barefoot-forefoot running and average loading and maximal loading was lower in barefoot-forefoot running as well.

What does all this data mean?

When it comes to improving biomechanics and reducing injury, running barefoot with a forefoot strike is substantially more exalting than running shoes with a forefoot strike.

Running barefoot allows a forefoot runner to transcend biomechanical limitations caused by footwear. Why?

Running barefoot presents ideal conditions ensuing better forefoot strike mechanics that reduces the likelihood of injury whereas shod conditions astonishingly alters lower limb kinematics, influencing injury.

You have to remember that running barefoot is a genetic novelty incorporated into human evolution to make us efficient, injury-free runners. Running barefoot conferred by our acquisition of our unique biomechanics, forefoot running, gave our ancestors as hunters and gatherers a competitive edge to outlast extinction.

Therefore, a shod-heel striker who transitions to shod-forefoot running and struggles with injury most likely has ‘incomplete’ forefoot running mechanics that can be easily brought up to par by running barefoot.

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References:

Shih et al. Is the foot strike pattern more important than barefoot or shod conditions in running? Gait & Posture, 2013; 38, 490-94.

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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