The best way to improve your forefoot running technique and performance is to improve your motor learning performance, which can only be done by running barefoot for just a few minutes before you run in your minimalist shoes.
How to Improve Your Forefoot Running Technique
Running barefoot improves motor learning, especially at the foot strike and ankle level. For example, running barefoot improves ankle plantar flexor at touchdown which brings huge gains to forefoot running performance.
There are neural mechanisms in the bottoms of our feet that underlie joint function and smooth movement coordination. The foot’s sensory receptors are also responsible motor learning and performance in forefoot running.
The neural mechanisms are known as proprioception, and I know I sound like a broken record because I am always discussing proprioception, but more and more research keeps churning out conclusive evidence showing that optimizing proprioception via barefoot running or pure minimalist shod running remains the best strategy to improve motor learning and performance.
Again, the biggest problem with cushioned running shoes is they reduce physical input to the proprioceptors in the feet, causing perceptual suppression of your foot strike during forefoot running. Subsequently, sensorimotor function, which includes motor and joint function, deteriorates along with motor performance during forefoot running, and surprise: you end up with an injury. In support of this, Kernozek and Meardon (2014) favored the fact that altered proprioception contribute to running injuries because proprioception governs joint-position and plantar senses during running.
Beware of Cushioned Footwear
More research has confirmed that when proprioception is limited, motor learning and performance impairments escalate because our foot strike judgments and body position sense become increasingly skewed during running.
Another example is that inefficient ankle kinematics during running stems from ankle-reposition errors due to disruptions in proprioception, suggesting that cushioned running shoes leads to poor motor performance at the foot/ankle complex (Fu and Hui-Chan).
Ultimately, proprioception is the foundation for good forefoot running mechanics and the positive effects of increased proprioception results from the influence of regular barefoot running and activity and on the body’s ability to sustain smooth, fluid, safe and efficient motor performance.
Be sure to check out my other articles on the importance of proprioception in running.
More From Run Forefoot:
Forefoot Running and Performance – Learn how forefoot running boosts performance better than heel strike running.
Running Barefoot On Soft Surfaces – Understand how softer surfaces might make it challenging to maintain your forefoot strike.
Shoes for Forefoot Running – Here I have selected the BEST shoes I feel will help any runner land on their forefoot with greater ease.
Don’t forget to stop by the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it’s a great place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and other related topics. I’m always here to help!
Fu ASN, Hui-Chan CWY. Ankle joint proprioception and postural control in basketball players with bilateral ankle sprains. Am J Sports Med. 2005;33(8):1174–1182
Kernozek T and Meardon SA. Differences in joint position sense and vibratory threshold in runners with and without a history of overuse injury. J Sports Rehab, 2015;24: 6-11
Lephart SM, Pincivero DM, Giraldo JL, Fu FH. The role of proprioception in the management and rehabilitation of athletic injuries. Am J Sports Med. 1997;25(1):130–137.
Riemann BL, Lephart SM. The sensorimotor system, part II: the role of proprioception in motor control and functional joint stability. J Athl Train. 2002;37(1):80–84.
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.