Some runners transition well from heel strike running to forefoot running. Other runners like myself, become frustrated with forefoot running because aside from feeling completely different from heel striking, I felt slower at first and felt like I was working harder.
Here are the reasons that influenced my decision to become a forefoot striker once and for all.
Be Patient with Forefoot Running
No Overnight Fixes
It is well documented that humans ran barefoot and ran with a forefoot running style for millions of years.
Shouldn’t forefoot running come naturally?
Not if you have been heel striking for many years before transitioning.
If have you been heel running for many years than heel running mechanics are habituated in the neuromotor system. Habits often take time to break.
In time, depending on your learning curve, you will eventually replace your heel running habits with forefoot running. This is the same as an adult learning to ride a bike for the first time -it can be done, but with time and lots of practice before the movements are automated.
The movement patterns of the lower leg and feet in forefoot running are completely different from heel running. These are big changes in biomechanics and you will not adjust overnight. Of course however, everyone adapts at different rates, but patients is the key, hang in there, you’ll get it.
No More Jogging. Time to Get Faster, and Faster
I’m not telling you to sprint, but pick up the pace! Forefoot running at a slow pace will feel awkward and difficult, and is why you are not adjusting well.
With my experience, I purposely ran slow on my forefoot under the assumption that running slower equated to less impact and therefore, would prevent injury during transitioning. However, this was the worst strategy to learn forefoot running as I suffered endless bouts of shin splints and running slow made forefoot running feel unnatural.
- a study by Bramble and Lieberman reported that higher running speeds becomes less energetically demanding than walking on account of the mass-spring mechanism, which is better optimized in a forefoot running style compared to a heel strike running -remember, the mechanics of heel strike running is very similar to the mechanics of walking.
Moreover, many forefoot running learners reported that running slow (4.5 to 6.5 mph) with a forefoot strike felt harder on the legs and uncomfortable, but at faster running speeds (7.5 to 11 mph and up) forefoot running felt more natural and much easier on the legs.
If 7.5 to 11 mph intimidates you, don’t worry about numbers, just run a little faster and find that speed where your stride starts to ‘smooth out’ and the interaction between you and the ground feels lighter and softer. Hold that speed and the feel of the smoothness in your stride at that pace for as long as you can -this fixed my shin splints.
When you run slow on your forefoot, you restrict the spring-like properties of the hind-leg and end up trotting with a ‘thud’ in each step, which increases jarring and braking. And, you would assume that increasing running speed would increase collision forces with the ground -this is true for heel running, not forefoot running.
Running faster on your forefoot and trusting your body, enhances the spring properties of the lower leg, promoting a more fluid, graceful stride. It will feel better, trust me!
Never be afraid of running fast, you are probably a lot faster than you think, thanks to forefoot running.
More From Run Forefoot:
Bramble, M.D. and Lieberman, E.L. (2004). Endurance Running and the Evolution of Homo
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.