Obese Runners May Benefit From Barefoot Running Technique

Most obese runners are scared to run in fear that their extra body weight will increase their risk of injury. But if they use the barefoot running technique, their chances of injury decreases and here’s why.

Barefoot Running Technique Benefits

What is the Barefoot Running Technique?

The barefoot running technique involves a forefoot strike landing. A forefoot strike is the best foot strike for overweight runners because it reduces stress on the knee and lower back as compared with heel strike running, a running style associated with many overuse injuries.

Click here to read more on how forefoot running prevents injury.

Body Weight Doesn’t Matter in Forefoot Running

The added weight of an overweight runner is offset by the impact reducing mechanisms of forefoot running.  The facts also suggest that added mass does not cause you to run slower. This came from a by Taboga et al. which investigated the effects of body mass on energetics and biomechanics in men of normal weight and severely obese. Here’s what the researchers found:

  • The energy cost of running and mechanical work was independent of mass, meaning mass had no influence on energy cost and mechanical work when running.
  • Mass did not determine the energy cost of running.
  • An obese runner can maintain similar motor strategies as a normal-weighted runner.

Therefore, being overweight does not make you run slower!  Moreover, studies on mass-specific energy consumption in animals show that as the overall mass increases, the mechanical cost per kilogram of body mass does not vary, but less energy is consumed, suggesting that overweight runners could store more energy at every step, and recycle this energy, to reduce overall energy consumption –if a forefoot strike is used, however.

Minimal Muscle Effort in Forefoot Running

Overweight runners lack muscle. The beauty part about forefoot running, especially for overweight runners, is that it lowers energy costs by reducing mechanical/muscular work, which in turn reduces mass-specific energy consumption.

In contrast, heel strike running requires greater mechanical output to transport the center of mass from back to front relative to initial foot strike position, which eventually exhausts the muscles of the lower leg.

The take-home message is that running with excessive body mass does not impair running form. So what are you waiting for? Get out there, run on your forefoot and lose the weight!

More on Why Heavier Runner’s Shouldn’t Heel Strike:

Achilles Tendon Soreness – Find out how heel strike running increases stress causing injury to the body’s strongest tendon.

Sore Back – 2 ways running with a heel strike causes lower back pain.

Why Heel Strikers are Prone to Injury – Learn how the stress-wave generated at heel strike is too hard on the body.

Bad Pronation – Understand the differences in pronation between a heel strike and forefoot strike landing and how heel strike evoked pronation is worse

Run Forefoot Because You are Faster than You Think!


Taboga et al., Energetics and mechanics of running men: the influence of body mass. Eur JAppli Physiol, 2012; 112(12):4027-33.

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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