Is Forefoot Running More Efficient Than Heel Strike Running?

Forefoot running is more energy efficient than heel strike running because it naturally allows for a higher stride angle. A 2013 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research discovered that forefoot runners had faster peak treadmill speed, higher lactate thresholds and better running economy compared to heel strike runners because the forefoot runners had a higher stride angle.

What’s so interesting is the researchers were surprised to find that stride length and frequency did not differ between the two running styles, but the main difference was that the forefoot runners had a significantly higher stride angle than the heel strike runners.

What is Stride Angle and How It Made Forefoot Running More Efficient?

Stride angle is an indicator of running economy and is defined as the angle of the parable tangent derived from the arc traced by the foot during a stride and the ground (Santos-Concejero et al. 2013).

  • The stride angle is calculated by tracing a theoretical parabola created by the height of the foot off the ground during stride until ground contact –shown below — (Santos-Concejero et al. 2013)
Another Reason Forefoot Running Has Low Energy Costs
SOURCE: Santos-Concejero et al. Interaction effects of stride angle and strike pattern on running economy. Orthoped Biomech, 2014; 35(13): 1118-1123.

In simple terms, the higher the stride angle when running, the greater the stride opens up behind the body, rather than in front. This helps reduce the time spent braking which in turn allows for more efficient accelerations. The foot also lifts higher off the ground during the swing phase of running and reduces ground-contact time.  The net effect of this is better running economy due to more efficient propulsion that involves less muscular effort (Santos-Concejero et al.2013).

More important, the study demonstrated that foot strike pattern strongly influenced stride angle.

  • The researchers revealed that the higher the stride angle, the higher the economical payoff during running and forefoot running was the best way to maximize stride angle vs heel strike running.
Is Forefoot Running More Efficient?
Landing forefoot-first when running was found to naturally engage a higher stride angle which in turn also enabled the stride to open up more behind the body rather than in front. This results in less brake loads because the brake rate decreases.

Based on the data, forefoot running is a more favourable way to run because it improved much of the economic and injurious shortcomings associated with heel strike running!

If you enjoy my blog on forefoot running, you’ll love my Run Forefoot YouTube channel here!


Santos-Concejero et al. Interaction effects of stride angle and strike pattern on running economy. Orthoped Biomech, 2014; 35(13): 1118-1123.

Santos-Concejero et al. Stride angle as a novel indicator of running economy in well-trained runners. J Strength Cond Res, 2013, doi: 10.1519/ JSC.0000000000000325

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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!