Another Reason Forefoot Running Lowers Energy Costs

Forefoot running may help you save energy because it naturally allows for a higher stride angle than heel strike running. For instance, Santos-Concejero et al. reported that forefoot runners had faster peak treadmill speed, higher lactate thresholds, and had better running economy compared to heel strike runners.

How Forefoot Running Saves Energy

BUT, the researchers were surprised to find that stride length and frequency did not differ between the two running styles. HOWEVER, the main difference was the forefoot runners had a much higher stride angle than the heel strike runners.

What is Stride Angle and How It Makes 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.

A higher stride angle also indicates a higher back-kick –the foot lifts higher off the ground during the swing phase of running, suggesting that the feet are more responsive in forefoot running. And past reports have found that a higher stride angle is related to better running economy as it implies efficient propulsion due to reduced ground contact time (Santos-Concejero et al.2013).

In the current study, the higher the stride angle, the higher the economical payoff during running and forefoot running is the best way to maximize your stride angle as the researchers demonstrated that foot strike pattern determines stride angle.

Stride Angle in Forefoot Running
Increasing your stride angle during forefoot running helps increase the height of your rearward back-kick.

Based on the data, the researchers concluded that forefoot running is a desirable biomechanical feature that improves much of the economic and injurious shortcomings associated with heel strike running.

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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

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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