Lean a little forward to maximize your acceleration performance, or running speed. A study by Kugler and Janshen (2010) concluded that faster runners utilized a posterior foot strike position and a forward body position. In other words, faster, more economical runners lean forward and strike the ground with their foot close to their center of mass.
How to Maximize Your Running Speed
The researchers found that the angle of the ground reaction force was a predictor of performance whereby more economical runners had more forward oriented ground reaction force angles during the entire stance phase compared to less efficient runners.
During the propulsive phase, faster runners reached a larger center of mass angle due to a foot strike position close to the center of mass, allowing the center of mass to move further a head. A bonus of forefoot running is that it facilitates a foot strike position close to the center of mass.
Intriguingly, the researchers discovered that faster runners did not exert greater propulsion forces compared to the less efficient runners, suggesting that pushing, or propelling the body forward during stance is not a valid component for enhanced performance.
Collectively, the results imply that body position (i.e. lean vs upright posture) affects the angle of the ground reaction force whereby a forward ground reaction force corresponds to a forward, or tilted body position.
Furthermore, a foot strike position close to the body, moves the center of mass further forward before toe-off occurs. This is important because it removes movement constraints such as braking. For this reason, a forefoot runner can reduce injury and improve performance by trying to lean more forward and through over-striding avoidance. In contrast, an upright body posture coupled with over-striding repels forward momentum, therefore detrimental to acceleration performance.
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Krugler F and Janshen L. Body position determines propulsive forces in accelerated running. J Biomech, 2010;43:343-348.
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.