There’s a reason barefoot running is becoming the gold standard for improving your running form in every way, especially helping you avoid heel strike.
There’s strong evidence showing that shod heel strike runners who run barefoot for the first time automatically land away from their heel with less all-around impact levels and more controlled footstep stability! This is because the heightened sensory processing in the foot when running barefoot activates a range of nerves in the ankle that prompts immediate changes in ankle position at touchdown and allows for a flatter foot placement in the form of a forefoot strike.
For example, a 2016 study in the Journal of Biomechanics found that all shod heel strike runners who ran barefoot for the first time showed significant improvements in ankle plantar-flexion angle at landing. This means the ankle did not pull the front of the foot back upon landing, like it normally would to allow for heel strike, rather the ankle engaged the front of the foot to point down upon landing in order to set the foot up to land away from the heel, shown below.
When barefoot, most of the runners in the study had greater ankle plantar-flexion angles of 3.6°- 8.4°, which means the runners automatically landed away from their heel by angulating the front of their foot to point more down towards the ground rather than up towards the sky.
These findings are a revealing indicator that barefoot running strengthens the ankles ability to engage a safer, functional foot strike pattern, and that the best entry point to train your brain to avoid heel striking is with barefoot running, especially on harder surfaces. Yes, thats right, on harder surfaces! The benefits of running barefoot on harder surfaces doesn’t get enough attention, but it’s the best way to get the most immediate improvements in your entire running form. Here’s why!
If you’ve enjoyed my blog post on barefoot running, you’ll love what I have to say about all the other impressive benefits of barefoot running and minimalist running on my YouTube channel, Run Forefoot!
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.