In my opinion, barefoot running training is at the fore-front of abolishing your heel strike running mechanics. Even if they don’t know anything about forefoot running, many shod heel strike runners who run barefoot for the first time may still retain their heel strike, but their heel strike automatically becomes less pronounced, which is a good thing because that could potential indicate a smaller impact-transient, which is what you need to prevent injury. However, the impact-transient can be completely eliminated by landing on the forefoot, which is how all runners should be landing.
Can Barefoot Running Training Reduce Heel Strike?
The surprising truth about barefoot running is that it does prompt immediate changes in ankle position at touchdown that allows for a safer foot strike by enabling a less pronounced heel strike. For example, a study by Hashish et al. 2016 found that all shod-heel strike runners who ran barefoot for the first time showed a significant increase in plantar-flexion angle of the ankle, even the runners who maintained heel strike had an increase in ankle plantar-flexion by almost 3º. Most of the runners had increases in plantar-flexion angles of 3.6°-8.4°, which means that the runners automatically landed away from their heels by adopting a forefoot strike. Knowing this published data is important because it shows that barefoot running training does in fact equal quick improvements in ankle and foot strike mechanics. But this is something we’ve always known.
We all have sensory issues in our feet because we’ve all worn shoes for the longest time. But when you run barefoot, the sensory nerves in the feet are hypersensitive, so they are quicker at registering pain, allowing you to be more reflexively adept at managing landing discomfort when running barefoot. In this case, the nerves in the feet send pain signals to the ankle to instruct the reflexes to allow for a lighter landing that occurs farther away from the heel –why? Because the impact-transient makes heel striking when running barefoot hurt.
So, use barefoot running training as the #1 tool to enable yourself to run with less of a heel strike. It’s a worthwhile endeavor that is key to a lasting running career.
More From Run Forefoot:
Hashish et al. Lower limb dynamics vary in shod runners who acutely transition to barefoot running. J Biomech, 2016; 49, 284-288.
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.