Focusing on maintaining good running form with a forefoot strike prevents impulsive landings, steering us toward routes that minimize impact and prevent injuries. Even experienced habitually forefoot runners should consistently monitor their forefoot strike landing. Why?
Always Focus on Maintaining Good Running Form
Boyer et al. (2014) was surprised to find that habitually heel strike runners who switched to forefoot running actually had lower impact forces than habitually forefoot runners!
- The habitually heel strike runners who switched to forefoot running had a lower peak vertical loading rate and vertical ground reaction force impact peak than the habitually forefoot runners.
The researchers believed that the reduction in impact and loading resulted from the greater focus of using a forefoot strike –in doing so, the habitually heel strike runners were more aware of impact and their neuromuscular system responded accordingly with adaptation to forefoot running.
Because the habitually heel strike runners were more consciously engaged in maintaining good foot strike mechanics while forefoot running, they demonstrated better forefoot strike precision than the habitually forefoot runners. This was inferred by the fact that the habitually heel strike runners who ran forefoot absorbed more impact in the plantar flexor muscles as compared with the habitually forefoot runners.
What was disconcerting about this experiment is that the habitually forefoot runners were probably unconsciously paying attention to foot strike, but had no idea they were landing with more impact. This suggests that consistent conscious attentional focus can powerfully influence landing behavior, making you land lighter when forefoot running.
The Take Home Message
Always make your foot strike consciously accessible when forefoot running. Because most forefoot runners are shod —note: all runners in the current study were shod– they have to work harder at attending to foot strike as compared with habitually barefoot runners.
- Habitually barefoot runners are better at using their unconscious attentional focus because their brain areas associated with reflexive foot strike control are probably more advanced than most shod runners.
Nonetheless, avoid disconnecting your focus from your foot strike and make good intuitive use of your perception to land safely at all times when forefoot running.
More From Run Forefoot:
Boyer E., Rooney BD and Derrick TR. Rearfoot and midfoot or forefoot impacts in habitually shod runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2014; 46(7): 1384-1391.
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.