How Forefoot Running Reduces Calf Strain Pain running is associated with mechanical patterns that reduce overloading and may prevent calf strain pain.

How Forefoot Running Reduces Calf Strain Pain
Landing on the forefoot, just under the toes, is the best application to prevent calf pain.

How Forefoot Running Reduces Calf Strain Pain

Forefoot runners have a mechanical advantage over heel strike runners and this advantage involves less knee extension and ankle dorsiflexion upon touchdown. Now researchers are identifying these mechanical mechanisms behind medial calf pain prevention.

Researchers have historically overlooked the effect of foot strike on medial calf pain, focusing instead on issues such as poor flexibility, longitudinal arch height, training volume and running experience, but that is changing because medial calf pain is tied to foot strike, specifically, a heel strike landing.

Miller et al. (1977) found that ankle dorsiflexion coupled with knee extension –both are characteristics of heel striking– at touchdown was a risk factor for medial calf pain.

Calf Tendon Pain When Running

It turns out that the medial calf musculature stretches immediately with ankle dorsiflexion and knee extension at touchdown, shown above (Ishikawa et al. 2007). Even worse, is the possibility that the calf is unable to absorb impact when stretched at touchdown and can lead to increased strain on the calf.

Another Way Medial Calf Pain is Prevent in Forefoot Running

In forefoot running, characterized by ankle plantarflexion and knee flexion at touchdown, the calves absorb more impact than in heel strike running, implying that increased impact absorption reduces the likelihood of calf pain during running.

Arguably, the physiological effects of heightened impact absorption may lead to increased demands on the calves and researchers speculate that a sudden increase in calf loading may lead to calf pain. In this case however, the pain is only short-term, if forefoot running is learned properly, and does not create an aversive state on the calves because they do not undergo rapid stretching at touchdown as compared with heel strike running.

The Take Home Message

These results, like those from other studies, indicate a specific link between foot strike and increased medial calf pain, implying that forefoot running may benefit those struggling to cope with medial calf pain.

Finally, proper forefoot striking technique relies heavily on footwear. It’s best to wear a flat, barefoot-like running shoe because running shoes with thick heels facilitate heel strike (Lieberman et al. 2010).

More From Run Forefoot:

Pronation –  It’s really important to talk about why runners overpronate because overpronation is actually very prevetable

Barefoot Running Technique – Find out why barefoot runners dont heel strike

Bad Running Shoes – Understand that heavy running shoes zap the steam out of your legs.

MinimalistRunning Shoes for Elderly Runners – Discover why elderly runners may benefit best from barefoot style running shoes

Reviews on Forefoot Shoes – Check out my reviews on barefoot running shoes that will surely boots your forefoot running form and performance.


DEVITA , P., and J. STRIBLING . Lower extremity joint kinematics and energetics during backward running. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 23: 602–610, 1991.

Ishikawa M., Pakaslahti J and Komi PV. Medial gastrocnemius muscle behavior during running and walking. Gait & Posture, 2007; 25:380-84.

Lieberman DE, Venkadesan M, Werbel WA, et al. Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature. 2010;463:531-535.

Miller WA. Rupture of the musculotendinous juncture of the medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle. Am J Sports Med. 1977;5:191-193.

MORTON , C. Running backward may help athletes move forward. Phys. Sportsmed. 14:149–152, 1986.

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!

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