If you experience plantar fasciitis from running (plantar fasciitis is characterized by burning heel pain or a piercing pain in the underfoot during running), you may be a heel strike runner.
I came across a study which demonstrated that one of the causes of plantar fasciitis in runners is a high degree of ankle dorsiflexion at touchdown –which means that you lift your forefoot back too much when the foot strikes the ground.
Plantar Fasciitis From Running
- Ankle dorsiflexion (i.e forefoot lifting as seen above) allows for a heel strike during running, but this landing action of the foot is linked to plantar fasciitis
Moreover, landing on the heel when running produces higher instantaneous rates of loading, exposing the plantar fascia to excessive stress (Pohl et al.2009). So what is the best a heel strike runner can prevent plantar fasciitis? The simple answer: don’t heel strike.
Forefoot Running is Best
Forefoot running reverses the foot/ankle kinematics of heel strike running that is, at touchdown, the ankle is plantarflexed rather than dorsiflexed.
- Shown above, a foot getting ready to land with a forefoot strike. In forefoot running, ankle plantarflexion means the front of the foot (i.e. the forefoot) is parallel with the ground, OR is pointed downward towards the ground upon landing, which doesn’t pull on the plantar fascia.
In fact, many healthcare professionals recommend plantarflexion strengthening exercises as part of their rehabilitation prescription for plantar fasciitis
Another benefit of forefoot running is that it reduces instantaneous loading rates. But how?
- In running, instantaneous loading rates depend on knee angle and upper body (i.e. center mass) posture relative to initial foot strike position.
Forefoot running reduces instantaneous rates of loading because upper body posture position is above, or at least close to foot strike position.
More to Explore:
Don’t Heel Strike! – Research shows that heel striking is a major pitfall for runners.
Barefoot Running – It’s not a fade. It’s actually one of the best ways to improve the sensory networks in your feet and joints.
Shoe Reviews – A forefoot runner’s guide to minimalist shoes.
When Your Knees are Out of Whack – Learn how to avoid runners knee.
Pohl MB, Hamill J and Davis IS. Biomechanical and anatomical factors associated with a history of plantar fasciitis in female runners. Clin J Sport Med, 2009; 19(5): 372-76.
Warren BL and Jones CJ. Predicting plantar fasciitis in runners. Med Sci Sport Exerc, 1987; 19(1):71-73.
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.