Using Gravity Acceleration When Forefoot Running

Forefoot running utilizes gravity acceleration to fuel forward momentum and it allows a runner to use less of their own mechanical energy. This is how gravity works in forefoot running.

Gravitational acceleration means an object is falling because gravity is pulling it down towards the ground, and therefore the object does not expend energy to fall.  So, how exactly does the concept of graviational acceleration relate to saving energy in forefoot running?

Using Gravity Acceleration When Forefoot Running

Leaning Forward in Forefoot Running As Per Pose Running
Dr. Romanov (above left), demonstrating the concept of creating a continuous fall in the forward direction in forefoot running

Dr. Romanov, author of POSE running, uses the concept of falling by leaning at the ankles, not the hips, to fuel the momentum to move in the forward direction while forefoot running.

According to Dr. Romanov, in forefoot running, gravitational acceleration occurs as the body falls forward, meanwhile the foot is quickly released from the ground and floats up underneath the hips, similar to pistons popping up and down.

This movement strategy may use less energy than heel running as heel runners don’t fall forward, they reach out with the leg, taking larger steps in order to move forward.  This is referred to as over-striding and may work against gravitational acceleration, possibly influencing earlier onset of muscular fatigue.


How Gravity Works in Forefoot Running
Allowing your body to fall forward during forefoot running is the best piece of advice I learned from Pose Running. Falling requires good touch and feel so that you don’t mechanically overwork your muscles. Half the battle in forefoot running is making the correct judgement of how much you should lean forward. It should feel natural and instinctive.

Forefoot Running May Allow For Greater Momentum

Why Lean Forward When Forefoot RunningThe alignment of the body in forefoot running (the body falls forward, the leg swings rearward) may allow for greater momentum and less vertical displacement:

  • in a forefoot strike, there is no rapid, deceleration at foot strike which may allow for greater momentum. Less braking, more gliding
  • conversely, in heel striking, there is a rapid, deceleration at heel strike which causes the system to abruptly stop at each step which may disrupt the stream of momentum

It All Starts with Bending the Knees

Keeping the knees softly bent, at whatever angle feels comfortable to you, while forefoot running really amplifies the spring element of the leg.  In addition, bending the knees may actually help promote a forefoot strike landing with greater ease.  How does this save energy?

Bending the knees allows for favorable mechanical conditions to facilitate a forefoot strike, which requires greater use of the tendinous structures of the lower leg.  Running with greater activity of the tendons of the leg has been implicated in energy conversation.

In contrast, in a 2010 study in Nature, Dr. Daniel Lieberman and his colleagues at Harvard University reported that in a heel strike, which often involves an unbent knee, the impact occurs under the ankle where the ankle was found to convert little translational energy into rotational energy and most of the translational kinetic energy was lost in the collision.  In short, anytime energy is lost, that can’t be a good thing.

The Take Home Message

Ultimately, forefoot strike running may be more efficient than heel strike running as the mechanics of a forefoot strike running style may contribute to our ability to converse energy while running.

Lastly, by ‘activating’ the spring-like behavior of the leg by bending the knees and running forefoot,  you will find your legs feel more relaxed than if you were heel striking.  So, relax, fall, and let your legs naturally work as springs and see how it feels.
More Intriguing Reads From Run Forefoot:

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!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.