The belief system among most running coaches emphasizes a non-heel strike running technique. Most coaches agree that forefoot running is the way to go, but how it is taught, could make learning forefoot running a painful experience.
For example, many coaches instruct forefoot running learners to ‘land on their toes’ –this approach may cause injuries such as Achilles tendinopathy. In fact, a study by Williams et al. (2014) demonstrated that ‘landing on your toes’ was not enough to achieve a desired forefoot strike pattern and may increase the risk of injury due to incomplete biomechanical instruction. In other words, to run safely when forefoot running, additional biomechanical modifications must be employed.
Another problem is that when runners are told to land on their toes, they generally decide to land high up on their toes. And more often than not, these runners fail to bring the heel down to the ground to initiate stance. Altogether, the risk of injury increases, therefore ‘landing on your toes’ should not be the gold standard for proper forefoot running instruction.
Learning Without Injury
Landing on the toes is not an authentic description of a forefoot strike because in forefoot running, the balls of the foot, not the toes, contacts the ground initially. Landing on the toes increases both strain on the plantarflexors and MPT plantar pressure.
When it comes to learning forefoot running, know that forefoot running has a completely different biomechanical landscape than heel strike running and simply focusing on foot strike modification is not enough to prevent injury, especially if the learner was formerly a heel striker. Quite often, forefoot running learners land properly on their forefoot, but exhibit heel strike mechanics in other areas of the lower extremity which would cause forefoot running to work against them, eventually leading to injury.
A learner needs to understand that forefoot running involves a certain range of ankle plantarflexion, knee flexion and hip flexion as well as trunk posture. In doing so, learners tend to impressively adopt to forefoot running with greater potential to curb injury during the process, whereas solely changing foot strike, and nothing else, fuels a cycle of persistent injury.
More From Run Forefoot:
- Why Runners Injure: Wrong Form
- Treadmills and Forefoot Running
- Why Barefoot Running Shoes are Good for You
- Rocker Shoes: Bad Solution for Foot Strike Correction
- Recommended Footwear for Forefoot Running
Williams et al. Changes in lower extremity movement and power of absorption during forefoot striking and barefoot running. IJSPT, 2014; 7(5): 525-532.
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.