How to Achieve Low Impact Running

Running with a forefoot strike is the sure way to achieve low impact running. One means of reducing impact in forefoot running is how the calves attenuate impact, suggesting that forefoot runners may suffer less injury than heel strike runners due to better shock attenuation performance in the lower leg.

How to Run with Less Impact

How to Achieve Low Impact Running

Ender et al., (2014) found that the calf muscles dampened impact better in forefoot running than in heel strike running. The researchers discovered that the damping capacity of the calf muscles was significantly higher in forefoot running than in heel strike running, suggesting that the calves have a more active role in absorbing impact in forefoot running.

  • The researchers found that forefoot running led to a 93% increase in the damping capacity of the calves compared to heel striking.
Forefoot Running vs Heel Strike Running - Impact Magnitude
In heel strike running, the calves are less active and are unable to absorb impact, causing impact to be higher.

Heel strike runners on the other hand, need all the help they can get with respects to impact absorption.

Why?

Impact is greater in heel strike running, but for some reason, heel strike runners don’t use their calves as well as forefoot runners to attenuate impact. This may be because the calves are more passive in heel strike running, whereas in forefoot running, the calves are more active since they are more involved in balance control. This also suggests that forefoot runners have more conditioned calves than heel strike runners.

So why is it important to have the calves as a source of impact absorption?

If the calves absorb impact, than impact would be reduced on other parts of the body, including the back.

Less Impact in Forefoot Running Than in Heel Strike Running
Forefoot runners land with less impact because the calves are more actively engaged in load bearing at touchdown.

Obviously, the damping capacity of the calves offer substantial benefits to forefoot running such as preventing impact related injuries like back pain and bone stress injuries, which are found to be lower in habitually forefoot runners.

Click here to find out other ways forefoot running prevents injury by reducing impact.

More From Run Forefoot:

Forefoot Running – Learn more about the natural impact attenuation mechanisms of forefoot running that makes it safer than heel strike running.

Heel Striking is Dangerous – Find out how heel strike running could account for most running related injuries in recreational runners.

Why Go Barefoot – Discover how barefoot running training significantly improves neuro-muscular adaptations for forefoot running.

Forefoot Running Shoes – Here are my reviews of the barefoot style running shoes best suited for forefoot running.

P.S. Don’t forget to see the Run Forefoot Facebook Page if you have questions related to forefoot running, barefoot running and minimalist footwear. I’d be happy to answer them for ya!


References:

Enders et al. The effects of preferred and non-preferred running strike patterns on tissue vibration properties. J Sci Med Sport, 2014; 17, 218-222.

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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