Eye Gaze in Forefoot Running

Eye gaze in forefoot running may lay down the groundwork for good forefoot running mechanics. Where, or what do you look at while you run?

Most coaches recommend staring straight head at a distant object.

Eye gaze in forefoot running should be down not up
Eye gaze in forefoot running should be down, not up.

Other coaches argue that hyper-focusing on a distant object will tire you out faster, and instead, you should gaze, not stare, at the horizon in front of you.

Eye Gaze in Forefoot Running

Likewise, some coaches believe it is better to stare down at the road, or track 30 meters ahead of you.

So, which position of eye gaze in forefoot running matters?  Or, does it even matter what you look at while running?

eye gaze tirunesh dibaba forefoot running
Tirunesh Dibaba, who ran barefoot for many years and is a forefoot strike runner, spends more time gazing at the ground when running rather than staring straight ahead.

Watch Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenensia Bekele, or Haile Gebrselassie run, they always gaze down at the ground roughly 80% of the time, and occasionally look up.

Note that they do not run with their head down, their head is up, but their chin is dropped and so is their eye gaze. Interesting.

Perhaps, a reason for their dropped eye gaze is that Dibaba, Bekele, and Geb grew up running barefoot and as a protective mechanism, needed to periodically scan the ground, possibly due to a reflexive response of the body to avoid stepping on something harmful.  Seems like a reasonable explanation.

Yet, for whatever reason, most American coaches strongly do not recommend looking down at the ground when running.  However, it seems to work just fine for Dibaba, Bekele, and Geb.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck with finding studies on the effects of eye gaze on biomechanics, or running economy. Personally, I found gazing down at the ground while occasionally looking up when running to be more comfortable than staring straight ahead like a robot.

Staring straight ahead while I ran felt as if I was decelerating.  When I dropped my eye gaze, like Dibaba, I instantly felt smoother and faster, like my mechanics all came together.  I’d like to keep emphasizing that dropping your eye gaze does not mean running with your head down!

It’s up to you if you choose to gaze straight a head, or down at the ground like the best runners in the world, whatever is most comfortable for you, stick with that.

Be sure to check out my other tips on proper forefoot running mechanics, and the health benefits of forefoot running have no value unless you are running in zero-drop minimalist running shoes or running barefoot.

More From Run Forefoot:

How I got started on forefoot running.

Minimalist running shoes boost the ability of older runners to balance better.

Why running faster, with a forefoot strike, is better for your nerves.

Insights on Galen Rupps training.

Run Forefoot, Because You’re Faster than you Think!

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

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