2 Factors That Slow Heel Strike Runners Down

There are two factors that potentially slow heel strike runners down: 1. extensive muscular effort and 2. longer ground contact time as compared with forefoot runners.

2 Factors That Slow Heel Strike Runners Down

2 factors that slow heel strike runners down

#1. Extensive Muscular Effort

In heel strike running, extensive muscular effort arises from taking larger strides. In doing so, greater muscular forces are used in opposition to gravity. In addition, taking longer strides requires more muscular effort to elevate the body for the ensuing step (Weyand et al. 2000). As a result, a heel strike runner may experience pre-mature physical fatigue.

Taking longer strides is also believed to affect elastic energy storage in the Achilles tendon.

  • Farley and Gonzalez (1996) found no mechanical advantage to taking elongated steps because it disrupted the natural spring-like behavior of the leg during running.
  • in forefoot strike running, studies found that the Achilles tendon stored more elastic energy at lower costs as compared to heel strike running.

#2. Too Long Ground Contact Time

Do heel strike runners run slower than forefoot runners?In heel striking, the foot spends more time on the ground which may require more oxygen uptake, thereby triggering earlier onset of fatigue.

Longer ground contact time may also impair the stretch-shortening cycle of the Achilles tendon, therefore limiting elasticity effectiveness as well as increasing energy costs.

In contrast, forefoot strikers may be more economical due to reduced ground contact time, reduced muscular effort, and better use of the elastic properties of the leg.

By making initial ground contact on the forefoot, may enhance the stretch-shortening mechanism of the tendon structures of the leg.

Moreover, after the forefoot contacts the ground, the heel quickly lowers to the ground before the foot is removed the ground, the interaction between the foot and the ground is very rapid, and minimal compared to heel striking.  As a result, the feet spend more time in the air which may also reduce force and traction production.

Why forefoot runners are faster.
Forefoot running allows for shorter strides, more time spent airborne which saves more energy than heel strike running.

Learn How to Run Forefoot:

Foot strike in Forefoot Running – Check out exactly how your forefoot strike landing should look.

Leg Swing in Forefoot Running – learn how your legs should swing when you are running forefoot.

Shoes for Forefoot Running – Reviews on the best shoes for the forefoot running technique.


Farley CT and Gonzalez O. Leg stiffness and stride frequency in human running. J Biomech 2: 181–186, 1996.

Gazeau, F., Koralsztein, JP and Billat, V. Biomechanical events in the time to exhaustion at maximum areobic speed. Arch Physiol Biochem, 1997; 105(6): 583-90.

Hayes, P and Caplan, N. Foot strike patterns and ground contact times during high-calibre middle-distance races. J Sports Sci, 2012; 30(12):1275-83.

Hasegawa, H., Yamauchi, T and Kraemer, WJ. Foot strike patterns of runners at the 15km point during an elite-level half marathon. J Strength Cond Res, 2007; 21(3):888-93.

Kyrolainen, H., Belli, A and Komi, PV. Biomechanical factors affecting running economy. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2001; 33(8):13330-7.

Weyand et al. Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements. J Appl Physio, 2000; 81:1990-1999.

Run Forefoot Because You are Faster than You Think!

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

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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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