Is Forefoot Running Better for Your Feet?

Forefoot running is much better for your feet than heel strike running for many reasons. One big reason is forefoot running was found to decrease loads on the plantar (foot) tissue by naturally increasing cadence, which is the number of steps per minute. The increased run cadence engaged by forefoot striking directly reduces ground-contact time, and in fact, results in a contact with the ground that’s so brief that many impact forces are barely produced, if not produced at all!

Better yet, when your feet spend less time on the ground when running, there’s less time for abnormal foot motions (over-pronation) to occur, which helps un-stress the feet even more!

How Forefoot Running Reduce Impact on Feet
Landing with a forefoot strike when running safeguards the feet from injury because it was found to reduce total loading over the foot as compared with heel strike running.

Case in point, a 2014 study in the journal Orthopaedic Biomechanics investigated the effects of foot strike pattern on risk factors related to foot injury in runners and found that forefoot running reduced over-loads on the foot by increasing cadence as compared with heel strike running.

How to Run with Less Impact on Your Feet
Loads of research has found that heel strike running coincides with a longer stride, a longer ground-contact time duration and a lower cadence, all of which are threat vectors implicated in foot pain and injury.

In their study, the researchers examined the effects of cadence manipulation on in-shoe plantar loading at the heel and the metatarsal heads during running at a constant speed. They also examined the effects of increasing and decreasing cadence by 5% on foot ground-contact time, peak force and pressure and pressure and force time integral. The researchers used a metronome as an auditory cue to increase and decrease cadence in runners.

  • The researchers found that increasing run cadence by 5% from the preferred cadence reduced total foot contact time, peak force and pressure on the foot, and heel force.
  • Medial metatarsal force and pressure time integral was lower when cadence was higher, suggesting that increasing your run cadence may reduce total foot loading and foot pain.

How exactly does a higher run cadence allow less loading on the foot?

Increased run cadence reduces stressful plantar loads by reducing foot inclination (less dorsiflexion) at touchdown, which reduced forefoot slapping. It also reduces the distance between the torso (center mass) and initial footfall position, meaning the foot lands closer to the center mass. In this way,  impact intensity on the foot is proportional to the horizontal distance between footfall position and the centre mass –as the foot lands closer to the body, the less impact that is produced (shown below).

Is Forefoot Running Better for Your Feet than Heel Strike Running?
Forefoot running reduces foot inclination at landing, which means the front of the foot does not lift up at landing. This action prevents the forefoot from slapping hard onto the ground. Reduced foot inclination at landing also closes the distance between the upper body and initial foot strike position thereby reducing stride length which is what drives a higher cadence.

There’s also less vertical excursion (less upward movement) of the center of mass which reduces the vertical ground reaction force magnitude. In other words, there’s less bouncing up and down of the body which reduces the downward force of the foot.

The Take Home Message

All in all, any intervention aimed at reducing impact loads on the foot, and elsewhere on the body in running, should include foot strike manipulation because evidence builds support that forefoot running is the surest way to engage safer mechanical components for low impact than heel strike running.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you’ll love my YouTube Channel here where I talk more in-depth on why forefoot running is safer and more efficient than heel strike running!


Dallam G M , Wilber R L , Jadelis K , Fletcher G , Romanov N . Effect of a global alteration of running technique on kinematics and economy . J Sports Sci 2005 ; 23 : 757 – 764

Heiderscheit B C , Chumanov E S , Michalski M P , Wille C M , Ryan M B . Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running . Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011 ; 43 : 296 – 302

Wellenkotter et al. The effect of running cadence manipulation on plantar loading in healthy runners. Orthoped Biomech, 2014, 35, 779-784.

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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!