The Truth About Stride Length During Running

People tell me I have a long stride –is this because I have long legs? I may have a long stride length compared to other runners, but I know I am not over striding (where the ankle lands in front of the knee at touchdown).

Elite runners like Mo Farah and Tirunesh Dibaba also appear to have long strides, too and are also forefoot runners and they don’t over stride. My point is, you can have a longer stride without over-striding when forefoot running.

The Truth About Stride Length

The Truth About Stride Length During Running

At touchdown, forefoot runners have more knee flexion than heel strike runners, which helps prevent over-striding –if the knee is bent at touchdown, it’s harder for the ankle to land in front of the knee– therefore, over-striding pretty much depends on knee mechanics (straight knee vs bent knee) and not so much stride length.

Long Stride Length
If it feels comfortable, do it. Slightly opening up your stride when forefoot running might make you more economical.

Again, many elite runners who utilize a forefoot strike, have a nice, long-ish stride, not a short, choppy stride. Weyand et al. reported that high-level sprinters were incredibly fast because they had a longer stride length than slower sprinters. Overall, the researchers concluded that any gains in running velocity is due to increased stride length.

A longer stride length in the context of sprinting is accompanied with a higher ground reaction force which appears to be harmless only if the heel strike transient is absent. In the case of sprinting, a forefoot strike is used which eliminates the heel strike transient, allowing a high ground reaction force to be relatively safe. In other words, a ground reaction force without the heel strike transient is the most favorable ground reaction force when running fast.

  • Hunter et al. found that to achieve greater acceleration, higher levels of the magnitude of the ground reaction force during the propulsive phase might be required.

The Take Home Message

The gist is, don’t be dissuaded from executing a longer stride length if it feels more comfortable than shortening your stride. As long as your knees are softly bent and you wear pure minimalist shoes, or run barefoot, you wont over-stride or brake at touchdown.

Many researchers truly believe that adopting a stride length that feels comfortable, no matter how short or long it is, should have no problems with injury or performance setbacks.

More Running Advice from Run Forefoot:

Shod-Induced Overpronation Reversed with Barefoot Running

Leg Stiffness Boosts Performance?

Runners Land More Forcefully in Shoes with Thick Heel Cushioning

Slow Running Increases Risk of Knee Pain

Footwear for Forefoot Strike


Hunter J., Marshall RN and McNair PJ. Relationship between ground reaction force impulse and kinematics of sprint-running acceleration. Coach Summer, 2006; 34:55-56.

Weyand, PG, Sternlight, DB, Bellizzi, MJ, and Wright, S. Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not faster leg movements. J Appl Physiol 89: 1991–1999, 2000.

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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