Dangers of Heel Striking In A Minimalist Running Shoe

A minimalist running shoe helps heel strike runners adopt a forefoot strike, which reduces their risk of injury. Most minimalist shoes are flat, with no under-heel padding, which enhances foot-placement awareness, helping a runner avoid heel strike.

Dangers of Heel Striking in a Minimalist Running Shoe

Dangers of Heel Striking In A Minimalist Running Shoe

What are the consequences of heel striking in minimalist shoes?

  • These injuries arise because the heel pad was not meant for walking, not running.

The shock absorbing properties of the heel pad does not fully dampen the impact at heel strike during running. Past studies have shown that the venous plexus (a shock absorber in the heel pad), loses its shock absorbing properties when heel strike running at fast speeds, causing more impact to penetrate through the heel, up the leg, and into the back.

In a minimalist shoe, the heel pad also breaks-down when heel striking during running. Due to the lack of cushioning, the impact transient force is greater when heel striking in minimalist footwear as compared with heel striking in the standard running shoe.

Heel Strikers Need Lots of Under-Heel Protection

Some minimalist shoes have a minimal under-heel cushioning, but this cushioning quickly deteriorates if heel striking is maintained during running. This is why heel strikers need to run in footwear with a thick, heavily cushioned heel.

Bare in mind, no amount of heel cushioning eliminates the peak impact transient force at heel strike. This force is a by-product of over-striding in heel striking. The only way to eliminate this force, and thus lower your chances of injury, is to adopt a forefoot strike which is the biologically adaptive style of running in humans.

However, if you are a die-hard heel striker who refuses to convert to forefoot running, avoid heel striking in a minimalist shoe. The most effective way to reduce impact from heel striking is to increase the padding under the heel, and good luck.

More on Why You Shouldn’t Be Heel Striking:

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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