Landing with a forefoot strike when you run may hold great power over improving other aspects of your leg swing mechanics that may relieve excessive vertical impacts, tensile stress, bending strain and higher rates of loading off the IT Band (also known as the iliotibial band which is a long stretch of connective tissue that runs along the outside of the leg from the hip to the knee and shinbone).
A growing body of evidence shows that a shorter stride length and a slightly wider step-width can consistently provide the IT band relief from mechanical overloading during running but of significance, both of these mechanical outputs are assisted with forefoot running, not in heel strike running. For instance, a 2015 published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that heel strike runners shortened their by 2% when they switched to forefoot strike running.
The authors noted however that a shortened stride length alone was not enough to sufficiently reduce IT band strain when running and that to effectively reduce IT band strain more fully, step-width must be widened in-conjunction with maintaining a shorter stride length when running. This mechanical combo can be easily achieved in forefoot running since stride length is usually reduce and step-width increased. Why?
When you land on the front part of your foot when you run, the foot physically does not have enough time to swing out all the way through and around the stance limb, thereby stride length becomes shortened and at the same time, there’s also less time for the foot to swing out all the way in front of the body across the mid-line, rather because of this swing time constraint, the foot is better positioned to be pulled slightly away from the mid-line and is more likely to drop down closer to your center of mass, resulting in slighter wider step-width as opposed to a crossover footsteps (footsteps the crossing the mid-line, which is a major risk factor for IT band pain).
If you’re struggling with IT band syndrome (symptoms often include sharp outer knee pain or pain that shoots up and down your leg when you run), to be on the safe side, it is probably worth considering changing from heel strike to forefoot strike running as we are quickly gaining a better scientific understanding as to how forefoot strike running can clean up aspects of your running gait in ways that may push your leg swing and foot strike mechanics into a more safe range.
To help you get started on learning forefoot strike running, here are 2 video’s I put together showing a proper forefoot strike landing:
If you’ve enjoyed this content, you’ll love my content over at my YouTube channel, here, where I talk more in detail about hot-button debate, forefoot strike vs heel strike running as well as the health and performance benefits of adding barefoot running into your training!
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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.