Is Forefoot Running Bad?

During my transition from heel striking to forefoot running, I will admit, my calves felt blow-torched, my Achilles was sore periodically which made me question, is forefoot running bad? Was I better off heel striking?

Is Forefoot Strike Running Bad?

Is Forefoot Running Bad?

The answer is, forefoot striking is not bad, the injuries I encountered was merely related to inappropriately transitioning by doing way too much, way too soon.

If you look at the big picture, accumulating evidence suggests that forefoot strike running generates less impact than heel strike running.  Less impact equates to potentially less injury.  Eventually, your calves and Achilles will adapt, and more persistent running injuries, such as runners knee and shin splints, will be eliminated if you stick with forefoot running.

If Forefoot Running Reduces Impact, Why Are Runners Still Heel Striking?

Emerging evidence blames the typical, conventional running shoe with a raised heel for causing a runner to heel strike. When I began running, I knew nothing of biomechanics, or foot strike. 

I walked into a sporting goods store, told the shoe salesmen I have never ran before and would like to start, he recommended the Nike Shox because they were ‘on the go’ and seemed safe and comfortable to run in.  I said SOLD, but just as the research confirmed, I instantly developed a heel strike and a long list of injuries.  It really was the shoe’s fault.

Runners who rely too much on the protective elements of a running shoe coupled with an incomplete knowledge of biomechanics end up heel striking and injured which eventually turns them off of running.

Runners in third world countries such as Ethiopia, where they cannot afford footwear, run barefoot to and from school as children and teenagers, and as a result, develop a forefoot strike running style and experience far less injuries than joggers in North America.  Such revelations have made many researchers and coaches realize that forefoot striking is a more natural, safer style of running.

Forefoot Running Eliminates The Ground Reaction Force

The most important reason for moving ahead with retiring your heel strike and learn to forefoot strike is that forefoot striking eliminates the vertical ground reaction force that is normally produced by heel striking.  So, the answer is NO, forefoot running is not bad, heel striking is bad.

Is Forefoot Running Bad?

  • in forefoot running, the foot lands lightly and gently in the same manner other mammals do who also do not generate impact during running
  • since peak impact forces are absent in a forefoot strike, forefoot runners do not need cushioning from a shoe to damped impact, even on hard surfaces such as concrete
  • a forefoot strike involves more controlled dorsiflexion at a compliant ankle meaning the foot-ankle complex is flexible, not stiff as in a heel strike
  • a forefoot strike is safer on the knees since the knee flexes when the forefoot strikes the ground

Forefoot Running Used to Rehabilitate Injured Heel Strikers

Many experts believe forefoot running is easier on the body than heel strike running partly because of the insufficient evidence that heel striking prevents injury.  However, promising results showing that forefoot running produces less mechanical stress than heel strike running, helps scientists redefine the proper way to run.

Though, experts once believed cushy-wedged heeled running shoes prevent injury, they now believe less is certainly more when it comes to footwear.

More on Why Runners Should Stop Heel Striking:


References:

Lieberman, DE. (2012).What we can learn about running from barefoot running: an evolutionary medical perspective.

Marti et al. (1988). On the epidemiology of running injuries. The 1984 Bern Grand-Prix study.

Nigg, BM. (2001). The role of impact forces and foot pronation: a new paradigm.

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

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