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
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.
Forefoot Running May Allow For Greater Momentum
- a lesser vertical displacement means that at foot strike, collision force is reduced as foot strike position is much closer to the mass of the body in a forefoot strike than in a heel strike where collision force is much greater
- 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:
- Heel Striking is Dangerous
- Heel Striking Footwear Causes Bunions
- Run Longer with Forefoot Running
- Obese People Run with Less Impact with Forefoot Running
- Achilles Tendonitis and Forefoot Strike 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.