High Heel Running Shoes Cause Careless Footfalls During Running

Running shoes can literally take-over your foot strike and ravage your ankle stability, causing you to engage in risk landing. Running shoes are the problem. For example, high heel running shoes are not conducive to forefoot running because they influence foot strike variability in runners.

High Heel Running Shoes Cause Careless Footfalls During Running
Regarding proper foot strike mechanics, the offset of a running shoe comes into play because it dictates foot strike, specifically influencing heel strike. A higher heel-toe offset (shown left) is the trajectory of risk that leads a runner into an injury. SOURCE: Gruber, A. Mechanics and footfall patterns in running, 2012.

High Heel Running Shoes Cause Careless Footfalls During Running

Even more surprising, Paul et al. (1978) found that the human heel pad is capable of attenuating shock at high frequencies. This finding calls into question our reliance on under-heel cushioning in running shoes: are such footwear really needed for impact protection in forefoot running?

Because the heel is the last part of the foot to contact the ground in forefoot running, heel pressure is significantly low, meanwhile the minor impact at touchdown is absorbed by the fat pads under the metatarsal heads as well as the ankles and calf musculature and the eccentric contractions of the plantarflexors. This proves that the only way to run without heel pain, is by forefoot running.

It is obvious that the heel pad is not needed for shock attenuation in forefoot running. So, under-heel cushioning has nothing to do with protection during forefoot running, then why wear a running shoe with under-heel cushioning?

  • Fong et al. (2013) reported that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the prescription of cushioned heeled running shoes to correct the impact during running.

Furthermore, Fuente et al. (2015) found that the standard running shoe was not effective in changing the mechanical strategy to reduce impact. Clearly, the standard running shoe increases the desire to strike the ground with more, not less, impact.

The gap seems to exist between what we want in a running shoe and what a running shoe can do for us. Motivated by the need for protection, many forefoot runners choose footwear with a large offset, but there appears to be no clear advantage of such footwear compared to a zero drop running shoe.

  • For instance, in the same study, Fuente et al. (2015) concluded that the standard running shoe failed to change mechanical strategy to impact compared to running barefoot and different levels of shoe cushioning creates additional mechanical risks of developing more injuries.

With the aim to prevent foot strike disturbances and injury, many experts emphasize wearing footwear that mimics feeling barefoot. A forefoot runner’s mechanical behavior is less likely to be disturbed in a zero-drop running shoe as the lack of under-heel cushioning makes it easier to try and find the correct way to strike the ground.

More From Run Forefoot:


Fong Yan A, Sinclair PJ, Hiller C, Wegner C, Smith RM. Impact attenuation during weight bearing activities in barefoot vs. shod conditions: a systematic review. Gait Posture. 2013; 38(2):175-86. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.11.017.

Fuente et al. Can cushioned shoes with anatomical insoles correct the impact in runners with recurring shin splints? J Exerc Sports Orthop, 2015; 2(1):1-5.

Paul IL, Munro MB, Abernethy PJ, Simon SR, Radin EL, Rose RM. Musculo-Skeletal Shock Absorption: Relative Contribution of Bone and Soft Tissues at Various Frequencies. J Biomech. 1978; 11(5):237-239.

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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