Running with a forefoot strike has been long recognized as the more economical way to run (Warrington et al.2014), as compared to heel strike running. This is one of the many reasons I believe forefoot running is better.
My life changed when I discovered forefoot running by reading one of the most influential books on running, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Running injury-free does exists and for superior safeness during running, run forefoot! Why? Landing with a forefoot strike curbs the risk of injury and improves performance far better than heel strike running for MANY reasons.
Forefoot Running is Better
How Forefoot Running Differs from Heel Strike Running
First, it is important to distinguish the differences between forefoot running and heel strike running. Below identifies key points about the benefits of forefoot running and how it is different from heel strike running:
What is Forefoot Running – Defining what is and what is not forefoot running.
Forefoot Strike vs Heel Strike – Helping you understand how a forefoot strike is different from a heel strike and why heel striking increases the risk of injury.
Safer Running – Running without injury is simple, because of forefoot running that is. Here are my thoughts as to why forefoot running is not bad.
Less Soft Tissue Vibrations – Forefoot runners appear to vibrate less than heel strike runners, helping their muscles save more energy on muscle tuning.
The Wobble Mass Effect – Here’s how forefoot running may have less net energy loss as compared with heel strike runners.
Smoother Strides – Forefoot running maximized stride smoothness and minimizes jerk at touchdown, which is key to interacting smoothly and gracefully with the ground.
Pronation – Forefoot running is associated with safer pronation that is of shorter duration than heel strike running
Mechanical Properties of Forefoot Running That Makes it Safer
Here are the mechanical attributes of forefoot running that make it more economical than heel strike running:
Tilting Forward – The best way to improve your acceleration performance when forefoot running.
Step Width – Because stride length is shortened, forefoot running may allow for a wider step width which is linked to less stress on the shins and the IT band.
Better Knee Kinematics – Running with a forefoot strike in minimalist shoes gives you maximal help with better knee function.
Arch and Achilles Elastic Energy Contributions – The arch and Achilles tendon have a better chance of storing more energy in forefoot running.
Higher Stride Angle – Comparing the influences of stride angle vs strength length on running economy.
Better Knee Movement Control – Forefoot runners were found to have less knee excursions, thereby saving more energy.
Injuries Forefoot Running is Known to Reduce
Not only does forefoot running improve performance, but it lowers the risk of the following injuries and the related risk factors:
- Patellofemoral Joint Stress
- Hip Pain
- Anterior Shin Splints
- Runners Knee
- Tibial Shock
- Medial Calf Pain
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Going Barefoot is the Best Way to Improve Your Forefoot Running Technique
Runners seem to be more responsive in adopting the proper forefoot strike landing if they run barefoot as the direct contact of the bare foot with the ground seems to be the most novel stimulus that helps the runner avoid initial strike on the heel.
Many newbie forefoot runners display an incorrect forefoot strike as well as other biomechanical impairments, which increase the risk of injury. Here is how going barefoot improves these components:
- Better Perception of Foot Strike
- Improves Load Balance of Center of Mass
- Strengthens Mind-Body Connection
- Increases Tactile Sensations
- Improves Intrinsic Foot Strength, Especially When Barefoot Outdoors
- Discourages Heel Strike
- Improves Toe Splay
- Better Arch Mobility for Impact Deflection
- Less Knee Excursion
- Controlled Ankle Dorsiflexion
- Reduces Stride Length
- Improves Ankle Kinematics
- Improves Muscle and Tactile Receptor Activation
- Improves Dynamic Stability and Balance Control
- Less Loading on the Hips
- Prevents Shin Splints
Why Cushioned Running Shoes Should Always Be Avoided
In the early stages of learning forefoot running, many runners believe that thick cushioned shoes will reduce impact, necessititating an easier transition. This is a myth, and thick cushioned running shoes induce movement impairments and injuries listed below:
- High Plantar Pressures
- Achilles Injury
- Knee Osteoarthritis
- Poor Proprioceptive Signaling
- Increased Overpronation
Learn How to Run Forefoot
To make forefoot running learning easier, here are key forefoot running tips to keep in mind:
- Let the Trunk Rotate
- Always Tell Yourself to ‘Land Lightly’
- Use Vibram Five Finger for Better Rates of Success
- Start off Running Barefoot in Small Amouts on Asphalt, Not Grass
- To Reduce Pronation, Wear Barefoot Running Shoes or Run Barefoot
- Avoid Learning Forefoot Running on a Treadmill
- Look Down at the Ground More than Looking Straight Ahead
- Try to Avoid Slanted Roads
- Stop Stretching!
More From Run Forefoot:
Forefoot Running Shoe Reviews – Here are the running shoes I feel are best suited for forefoot running.
Barefoot Running – Train better, learn forefoot running faster with barefoot running and discover how barefoot running is literally physical therapy for the legs.
Injuries Caused by Heel Strike Running – Here I outline the injuries linked to heel strike running and how they are caused by heel striking.
Proprioception Central to Forefoot Running – Understand why developing the proper forefoot running technique resides in the level of proprioceptive input.
Warne JP, Warrington GD. Four-week habituation to simulated barefoot running improves running economy when compared with shod running. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014;24:563–8.
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.