Forefoot Running Attenuates Impact Better

Forefoot running involves less pronation than heel strike running, suggesting that pronation is not important for attenuating impact in forefoot running. Yet, forefoot running still generates less impact despite the ‘loss’ of the impact attenuation mechanism of pronation.

More on Pronation in Running

Pronation was believed to be an impact attenuator during running. However, pronation patterns differ between a forefoot strike and a heel strike, suggesting that impact attenuation at the foot may differ with respect to foot strike. For instance, forefoot runners typically pronate less, leaving the arch and ankle to act as impact attenuators.

Yet until a study by Yingling et al. was published, pronation was thought to play a major role in impact attenuation of heel strike running because greater rearfoot movements occur in heel strike running as compared with forefoot running.

Tellingly, the researchers discovered that pronation and restricted pronation had no effect on the impulse wave generated at heel strike in heel strike runners. Because the two conditions had about the same amount of excessive force on tissues and bones, debunks the belief that pronation attenuates force during heel strike running.

Less Force with Forefoot Running
Forefoot running may prevent pronation from getting worse as compared with heel strike running

Pronation, a Heel Striking Problem

Since heel strike running involves greater rearfoot movements as compared with forefoot running and since most joggers heel strike, pronation tends to get the most attention in terms of injury prevention.

Interestingly, the term ‘pronation’ was exclusively derived from heel strike running mechanics. Pronation means at heel strike, a combination of dorsiflexion, abduction and eversion of the subtalar joint occurs, allowing the foot to be more flexible. These movements differ in forefoot running and forefoot running is associated with less impact, suggesting that pronation is less troubling for forefoot runners. Moreover, research indicates that excessive pronation appears to pertain to heel strike running, not so much forefoot running.

The significance of this study suggests that pronation may be the cause, not the prevention of injury in heel strike runners. The fact that impact was not affected by restricting pronation of heel strike running provides causal evidence that pronation is not an impact attenuator, rather it is a motor dysfunction. If you are a heel striker, you may want to convert to forefoot running.

More From Run Forefoot:

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome – Many runners suffer this dreaded injury, but many runners don’t  know why. This article covers the main cause of knee injury in runners.

Achilles Heel – Found out why heel strike running is such a daunting task for the Achilles tendon, resulting in injury to the tendon.

Eccentric Exercises – We often hear about eccentric exercises, but you can achieve them just by running barefoot; find out how.

Forefoot Shoe Review – Read my review on the FeelMax Osma 2, an under-appreciated forefoot running shoes that is a great tool to help you mechanically run your best.


References:

Yingling VR., Yack JH and White SC. The effect of rearfoot motion on attenuation of the impulse wave at impact during running. J Appl Biomech, 1996, 12, 313-325

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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