How Forefoot Running Fixes IT Band Knee Pain

So many runners suffer from IT band knee pain, yet wearing stability running shoes with lots of cushioning will not do the job at reducing symptoms.

In running, most ITBS sufferers are heel strikers, and past studies have eluded to the fact that heel strike running is the problem that fuels lateral knee pain. However, there is hope in that another study has found that the mechanics of forefoot running can easily fix ITBS implicated in heel strike runners.

How Forefoot Running Fixes IT Band Knee Pain
When the forefoot strikes the ground, the toes and front part of the foot (the forefoot) points downward, which helps guide the foot to land closer to knee, thereby helping to shorten stride.

How Forefoot Running Fixes IT Band Knee Pain

There are two mechanical variables of running that reduces IT band strain: a shorter stride length and a larger step width ( the mediolateral distance between both feet). Both of these mechanical variables are assisted with forefoot running, but not in heel strike running.

Forefoot running relieves IT band strain, partially because running forefooted naturally shortens stride length, which reduces loading on the hips and knees and reduces peak hip adduction as well.

A study by Boyer and Derrick (2015) found that heel strike runners shortened their by 2% when they switched to forefoot running. The researchers also found that step width widened as stride lengthen shortened, which reduced IT band strain.

The authors noted that shortening stride length alone is not enough to reduce IT band strain when running. To further reduce IT band strain, step width must be widened (i.e. feet are spaced hip-width apart) in-conjunction with maintaining a shorter stride when running.

A wider step width is easily achieved by taking smaller steps, which is accommodated better in forefoot running since stride length is usually shorter than in heel strike running. The researchers mentioned that step width becomes wider as stride length becomes shorter because the feet do not have enough time to swing all the way through and around the stance limb when stride length is shortened.

So, if you have IT band syndrome, land with a forefoot strike, take smaller steps by bending your knees, and most importantly, make sure that your feet are spaced hip-width apart at touchdown. And, finally, running barefoot or in barefoot like running shoes will help you optimize your forefoot strike landing.

More Articles Related to Knee Pain When Running:

Strengthening Exercises for Runner’s Knee Pain

How Stiff Running Shoes Hurt the Knees

How Forefoot Running Reduces Front of Knee Pain

Minimalist Shoes and the Wrong Running Technique Damages the Knee


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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!