Forefoot Running Prevents IT Band Injury

The IT 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) is a common site of injury in runners. One risk factor for the condition is foot strike pattern, namely heel striking.

Most relevant, landing with a forefoot strike does a better job at preventing IT band injury than heel strike running by relieving excessive vertical impacts, tensile stress, bending strain and higher rates of loading off the IT band.

Is Forefoot Running Better for Your IT Band?
Several studies connected forefoot running to producing two mechanical outputs that effectively safeguard the IT band from injury. They are: reduced stride length and increased step-width. These two mechanical outputs naturally occur when you land with a forefoot strike, and were found to have a corrective effect on mechanical entanglements of the leg, thereby preventing bending strain and loading overexposure on the IT band.

A growing body of evidence shows a shorter stride length coupled with a wider step-width (the distance in width between both feet at each step) safeguards the IT band from mechanical overloads, but of significance, both of these mechanical outputs are engaged most optimally in forefoot running, but are impeded in heel strike running.

For instance, a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that heel strike runners shortened their stride length by 2% when they switched to forefoot running, but it was the increased stance-width, engaged by forefoot running, in addition to reduced stride length that made the most positive difference in preventing injurious IT band strain.

How does forefoot running naturally engage a wider stance and shorter stride length as compared with heel strike running? 

When you land on the front part of your foot (forefoot) when you run, the foot physically doesn’t have enough time to swing out all the way through and around the stance limb, which is why stride length becomes reduced. There’s also less time for the foot to swing out all the way in front of the body and across the mid-line, rather the foot lands away from the mid-line while landing closer to your center of mass, resulting in a wider stance, not crossover footsteps (i.e footsteps that cross the mid-line, which is a major risk factor for IT band pain).

Is Forefoot Running Better for Your IT Band?
Landing with a forefoot strike instantly mobilizes foot strike placement either on or slightly away from the mid-line. This means step-width increases while stride length is reduced, which have the well-known effect of reducing bending strain and mechanical loads on the IT band.

If you’re struggling with IT band syndrome (symptoms include sharp outer knee pain or pain that shoots up and down your leg when you run), make sure you’re not landing with a heel strike, and instead, adopt the forefoot running technique as we’re quickly gaining a better scientific understanding as to how landing forefooted when running cleans up important aspects of your stride in ways that ensures your leg swing and foot strike stay in safer 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!

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my Run Forefoot Facebook page here! 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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Edwards WB, Taylor D, Rudolphi TJ, Gillette JC, Derrick TR. Effects
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Heiderscheit BC, Chumanov ES, Michalski MP, Wille CM, Ryan MB.
Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running.
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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!