How big of a deal is the proper foot strike for running? I always like to mention that most of the best runners in the world use a forefoot strike. But does foot strike matter at the recreational level? The answer is that if you want to improve your race time, you should be landing on the balls of your feet when you run.
In line with public perceptions, heel strike running may be the predominant foot strike in joggers, but a forefoot running technique is safer and more economical.
Why Forefoot Running Technique is Better
A study by Williams et al. (2012) compared lower leg mechanics in heel strike runners to forefoot runners and found that forefoot runners had less loading (less force on the body) and less torque (less rotation around a joint) than the heel strike runners.
The forefoot strike runners also showed minor impact at initial contact which was transmitted through the smaller muscles and bones of the midfoot rather than directly through the heel and shin as in heel strike runners.
How Forefoot Running Reduces Loading and Torque
The researchers indicated that greater knee flexion (bending of the knee) upon initial foot strike allows for a strike position closer to the center mass (the body) thereby reducing both joint loading and torque.
- landing on the forefoot as opposed to the heel with foot strike position closer to the body reduces ground reaction forces which are often high in heel strike runners since strike position is further in front of the body.
The Take Home Message
The evidence implies that switching from a heel strike to a forefoot strike could represent a major advance in your athletic performance as impact is reduced on the lower leg. When impact is reduced, so is overall discomfort and running feels more natural and less demanding.
More From Run Forefoot:
Don’t Heel Strike! – Research shows that heel striking is a major pitfall for runners.
Barefoot Running – It’s not a fade. It’s actually one of the best ways to improve the sensory networks in your feet and joints.
Shoe Reviews – A forefoot runner’s guide to minimalist shoes.
When Your Knees are Out of Whack – Learn how to avoid runners knee.
Williams, DS., Green DH, and Wurzinger B. Changes in lower extremity movement and power absorption during forefoot striking and barefoot running. Int J Sports Phys Ther (2012); 7(5):525-32.
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.