Changing from heel strike to forefoot strike running was considered a major risk factor for Achilles injuries as a forefoot strike landing was thought to increase mechanical loads on the Achilles tendon. But, it turns out that switching to forefoot running poses no risk of damage to the Achilles.
Heel Strike to Forefoot Strike Not a Risk for Achilles Injury
Another study revealed that peak Achilles tendon force was not greater among barefoot-forefoot runners compared to barefoot-heel strike runners and the difference in Achilles loading between the two groups was not statistically significant.
In the same study, the barefoot-heel strike runners showed greater tibialis anterior muscle activity during the stance phase of running which may exhaust the connective tissue surrounding the tibia and increase the incidence of anterior shin splints.
Should You Make the Switch?
Current research suggests changing from heel strike to forefoot strike running is safe if the transition process is gradual and sensible. When learning a completely new style of running, the body needs to time to reprogram itself.
Heel strikers assume changing to forefoot strike running causes Achilles injury since many heel strike to forefoot strike transitioners maintained regular volume of running without any rest, or adaptation periods -an example of no common-sense.
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Almonroeder, T., Willson, JD and Kernozek, TW. The effects of foot strike pattern on achilles load during running. Ann Biomed Eng, 2013; 41(8):1758-66.
Goss DL and Gross MT. Relationships among self-reported shoe type, footstrike pattern, and injury incidence. US Army Med Dep J, 2012, 12:25-30.
Shin, Y and Shaig, TY. Is the foot striking pattern more important than barefoot or shod conditions? Gait & Posture, 2013; 38(3):490-94.
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.
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