How To Save Energy When Running

I think the most common question runners ask is how to save energy when running?

We all want to magically save lots of energy when we run, and the best way to save on energy when running is by running with a forefoot strike because it involves significantly less muscle activity in the lower leg as compared with heel strike running.

Muscle activity is a way to quantify muscle function, such as shock attenuation and balance control, and it essentially means that the muscle is ‘in use’ when muscle activity is high and therefore requires energy, so it would then follow that less muscle activity means less energy expenditure, or energy saved since the function of the muscle is less in use.

How to Save Energy When Running

How To Save Energy When Running

A study by Yong et al. 2014 showed the energetic payoff of forefoot running in comparison to heel strike running in that forefoot running was associated with less muscle activity in the tibialis anterior during the late swing phase, the soleous during early stance, and the vastus medialis and lateral hamstrings during the late swing phase as compared to natural heel strike runners. These findings suggest that less energy may be needed to fuel the muscles during stance in forefoot running and that this may represent another way in which forefoot runners are more economical than heel strike runners.

The most crucial component of running is the interaction of the body with the ground. Heel strike runners have greater footfall impact involving more muscle activity to attenuate impact.  Forefoot running on the other hand produces less footfall impact, and therefore less muscle activity is needed to ramp up shock attenuation, which may explain why the natural forefoot runners had reduced lower leg muscle activity during ground contact.

Here are more ways to save energy when running:

Best coffees to drink before a run

How running speed influences running economy

How forefoot running allows for passive energy storage

5 best energy gels for the marathon

How to use your foot arch and Achilles tendon to help you save energy when running

Why let your heel drop to the ground when forefoot running


Yong et at. Differences in muscle activity between natural forefoot and rearfoot strikers during running. J Biomech, 2014;47(15):3593-7.


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

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!