Why is Running on Your Forefoot Better

Unlike heel strike running, landing on your forefoot provides its own set of natural impact protections, such as a higher cadence, or step-rate, which is the number of times your feet step on the ground per second whereby a higher cadence means your feet step on the ground more times than if you ran with a lower cadence.

Why is Running on Your Forefoot Better
There’s very clear evidence that when you land forefooted during running reduces over-striding by reducing knee extensibility, which results in a slightly bent knee at landing. The net effect of this landing configuration is a higher cadence which is proven to do the most good in preventing impact overloads to the shin, knee, hips and lower back!

What so interesting is that, although a higher run cadence may seem like more work since the feet are taking quicker steps, a higher running cadence actually saves energy and results in a contact of the foot with the ground that’s so brief, many impact variables are produced in lesser amounts, or not even produced at all!

Most important, a higher run cadence is one of the most proven interventions that helps runners avoid many injuries. This is why heel strike running doesn’t pay off for injury prevention since a lower cadence naturally accompanies a heel strike landing.  More specifically, the heel-to-toe movement path of the foot after heel strike causes the foot to make a longer line of travel with the ground. This essentially causes the foot to grapple longer with the ground, allowing more time for the foot to shift away from its neutral range, and into extreme positions (i.e. foot over-pronation).

Why Heel Strike Running is Bad
Unfortunately, the farther back you land on your heel, the more the front of your foot lifts up (increased dorsiflexion), the more the knee-joint extends and straightens out. The big problem here is the foot ends up wrestling too much with the ground (i.e. low cadence) and pushes the foot outside its neutral range of tolerance as compared with forefoot running, which naturally minimizes ground-contact time (i.e. higher cadence).

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What’s worse, it’s well-supported that the low cadence in heel strike running causes the leg’s muscles and ligaments to work harder to try and stabilize the foot, putting you at risk for an over-use or repetitive-stress injury.

What Happens After Heel Strike?

At the same time, heel striking coupled with an extended knee at landing results in a longer over-stride angle (shown above), meaning the foot lands too far in front of the hips. This produces a high brake force duration period, meaning the body decelerates for a prolonged time with the ground, which produces greater-than-normal impact on the shins, knees and lower back. 

Forefoot Running is Always Better

Most notably, when you land on your forefoot, the front of the foot points down towards the ground, which causes the knee-joint of the leading leg to slightly bend upon and at touchdown. The importance of this is it closes the distance between your foot and center of mass (i.e. your upper body) which not only minimizes braking, it helps you gain more forward momentum with greater ease by naturally increasing cadence. 

Why is Running on Your Forefoot Better?

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Not just that, landing on your forefoot naturally removes wasted travel out of your foot on the ground which is another reason cadence is always higher in forefoot running.

The main lesson is foot strike matters immensely in running as landing on your forefoot continues to prove itself as the sustainably safer way to run. Primary scientific research on impact mechanics concludes that the power of forefoot running is in its capacity to functionally improve other important aspects of your stride, like prompting a higher cadence, resulting in less impact than expected, while leaving less time for abnormal foot motions to take hold.

Read more here about why forefoot striking when running is how the foot interacts best with the ground! 


Nelson RC, Gregor RJ. Biomechanics of distance running: A longitudinal study. Res
Q. 1976;47(3):417-428.

Romanov N. Dr. Nicholas Romanov’s pose method of running. 1st ed. ; 2004.

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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!